UNOFFICIAL NHL clubhouse rule No. 348: when it comes to the woes of your opponents -- be they on the ice, off the ice or both -- keep your head down and play your own ball.
That's been the approach of the Winnipeg Jets over the last couple of days as reporters have pressed the players and head coach Claude Noel for a take on what is happening with the Montreal Canadiens, who are here tonight after a game in Chicago.
Noel & Co., after all, have their own worries to deal with, let alone be dragged into a discussion about the Habs, who are slumping and embroiled in controversy after firing head coach Jacques Martin and replacing him with Randy Cunneyworth.
Cunneyworth, given the 'interim' tag, is getting roasted in Quebec because he does not speak French.
"Randy Cunneyworth is a friend of mine," Noel said Wednesday afternoon following Jets practice. "I've coached against him and I have a lot of respect for him. It's a tough situation for him. I don't know the situation enough there, not having lived in the province to understand it enough to say it's right or wrong. I don't understand it enough. I feel for him. It's hard enough to coach in the National Hockey League, let alone to coach in tough circumstances like that."
Asked if he felt Cunneyworth was in a no-win situation, Noel added: "I don't want to go there. I don't have a real comment on the situation there. That's in Montreal and I'm going to leave that in Montreal."
The Jets are 15-13-5 following Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Islanders and, with 35 points, are tied with Washington and Buffalo in the Eastern Conference -- one point out of a playoff spot heading into Wednesday's action. The Habs, meanwhile, were 3-4-3 in their last 10 prior to Wednesday's game in Chicago.
"I'm sure the guys in Montreal are accustomed to that but yeah, you want controversy on the other team's team," said Kyle Wellwood. "Every time you play them, you want them to be in a spot where they don't have the chemistry or there's something they've got to deal with.
"I'd say that's a positive for our team if they might have to deal with something."
Added Tanner Glass, who played for Cunneyworth in Rochester: "I liked him. He was very fair. He worked hard. He always gave us his all. I thought he was a very professional guy, came to the rink with his workboots on every day and taught us what it means to be a pro."
Just FYI, knowing that assistant coach Pascal Vincent's name has been linked to the potential opening in Montreal -- he was very popular during his two years as the head coach of the QMJHL's Montreal Juniors -- the Jets have opted not to make him available for interviews to avoid any controversy.
"I don't think he wants to get himself involved in that," said Noel. "We have enough to do, fellas. We don't need to bring in other topics. We have to deal with our own team. We want our players to focus on the task, why would we not focus on task? You can't ask your team to do one thing and then you're all over the place. We don't coach another team, we coach our team."
-- THE RIGHT CALL: Here's Noel on the collision between Evander Kane and Islanders' goaltender Al Montoya, who had to leave the game with what is now being called a concussion, late in the second period:
"I think that was a good call," said Noel of Kane's minor penalty. "I don't know what he should have done, that's up for debate. But you have to make sure if you're going to go to the net like that you're prepared to miss the goalie. It's kind of a double-edged sword, but you almost have to find an escape route. That's the way it has to be."
The Islanders also lost David Ullstrom to a concussion after he crashed into the boards in overtime.