Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Confidence reigns supreme for Jets

Coach still certain he can right ship

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However bruised, scarred and under the gun he may be, Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel brought his optimism to bear Thursday when the team got back to work at the MTS Centre.

The Jets, now last in the NHL's Central Division at 19-22-5, have lost four in a row and none worse than Tuesday's 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay at the MTS Centre.

In that one, the home team mustered all of 14 shots on goal, leading to a lot of bad body language and mounting frustration.

"I'm a realist," Noel said, addressing reporters after an 80-minute practice on Thursday. "I understand exactly how things go. That comes with this job.

'We're going to win here one day... I'm confident in that'

-- Jets coach Claude Noel

"I'm very confident we can get this thing turned around. That's the direction I go. I have enough to focus on, the task. I try not to focus on the negativity surrounding this position. We'll get it turned around.

"We're going to win here one day. I'm hoping to be here one day, we are going to win here one day and then I'll be able to sit here and say, 'We're winning now.' That's going to happen. I'm confident in that."

It certainly appeared as if Noel was channeling his inner Bob Johnson ("It's a great day for hockey") or even Jets 1.0 coach Bob Murdoch, once the NHL coach of the year, who remained steadfastly positive even when his team turned terrible.

"One thing you've got to understand -- we don't have bad people and it's not like this is something they're trying to do," Noel said. "These are things that happen to teams. I've been on teams, played on teams when this has happened. And this is frustrating. They're trying to do the right things. There are things stopping us from performing that I've got to try to get back going again. It'll happen. We'll get it going again."

So Noel said some safe things, like, "The players care," and "I think they're doing their part. They're like me in a lot of ways, they're searching for answers and I'm trying to provide the answers and provide the answers with a sense of focus."

He also said a thing or two that might be a reach, such as, "I think our team is still a playoff team."

As for change -- the buzzword of the last few days -- Noel said the only change on the table right now is a change to a better game.

"I do not like where we are right now," he said. "I do not like the way we're playing right now. Neither do they.

"So, the thing is, I know they want to play better and to me, when we're talking about change, that's clearly the change we have to make.

"We can talk about other changes and all the other things, but clearly, we have to play better, do things a lot better. That process has started and we're going to try to do this again. And it'll get done. We hope it'll get done when we play Columbus."

That game comes up Saturday night at the MTS Centre, and while he was hard on his positive theme Thursday, the coach pleaded with fans not to lose faith.

"We feel pretty much like they feel," he said. "We control the situation and we also feel confident we'll be able to get it back on track. That's what we're trying to do because we hear their voices and I can tell you to a man with the players and the staff, we're all feeling about the same.

"We're trying to find solutions to get this thing back on the right track.

"We're hoping they'll still support us for the next game and we expect to be a lot better in the next game."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2014 C1

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