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'I'm not a moral victory guy': Noel

Another narrow loss rankles Jets bench boss

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Blake Wheeler's shot slides past Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov as Bryan Little of the Jets and Avs' Erik Johnson fight for position.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Blake Wheeler's shot slides past Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov as Bryan Little of the Jets and Avs' Erik Johnson fight for position.

No Toto, we're not in Atlanta anymore.

That was the message from Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel Thursday night after a 4-3 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche got Noel talking about the ongoing frustrations of trying to build a winning culture in a franchise that was mired for so long in losing in it's former home in Georgia.

Moments after forward Blake Wheeler told reporters in the Jets dressing room he was frustrated with a team that has been "taking positives out of losses for too long," Noel said pretty much the same thing.

"I'm not a moral victory guy. I deal in the real world. You have to find some positive spin on it outward to the general public. That's just some things you have to do to move forward. You're not going to beat up on your team," said Noel.

"But I think what it shows is winning in the National Hockey League is not an easy process. And it's difficult to change the way things function. We've come from Atlanta and now we're in Winnipeg. So Atlanta is gone -- it's gone. But we're still trying to get to the point where we create something positive in a step.

"And that's what we're trying to do. It's been slow -- I'll be the first to admit it. I talked about it (Thursday) morning. You'd like to expedite that process.

"And it's been slow. I don't deal in moral victories. Right now, we're a .500 hockey team and .500 isn't good enough. It's not going to cut it and it hasn't cut it in the past. It's put us below the line and this year in the conference we're in, it won't come close. You're going to be really scrambling.

"So we know the urgency of all that stuff. But it has to happen in our actions, not in words. Words, for me, and moral victories are empty. There's no substance to that -- the substance is in your actions. You want to change it, change it on the ice."

Of course, change also begins in the dressing room and Noel was asked what he could do as the team's head coach to effect the change that has been so slow in coming to a franchise that for three seasons now has almost continuously hovered right around the .500 mark.

"You have to find a different way...to not only accelerate change but to try and connect the message to change," said Noel. "It's no different than if you're dealing one-on-one with a player and you've told him 43 different times how to do something and he keeps doing it (wrong).

"Now, you can sit and blame the player -- 'Man, he doesn't get it.' Or you can look at yourself and say, 'I will be relentless in my pursuit to find a new way to get out the message.' It's not his fault -- I've got to find a better way to get the message across.

"So we will find another way (today) to get it to go. I don't sit there and blame the players. The players want to have success as much as we all do... But it's like I said before -- we don't win games easily. It's not an easy process for us. They're one-goal games -- we know that number.

"So it's not like half the guys can show up and we can win 5-2. That doesn't happen. We all have to be very engaged. And it takes a lot."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2013 C4

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