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Winnipeg Jets and Claude Noel just awaiting clearance

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New duties and new responsibilities among the coaching staff will mark the Winnipeg Jets' second revival season -- if it ever gets going.

Jets head coach Claude Noel, who because of the NHL lockout has been virtually silent since the summer, told the Free Press late this week that the addition of assistant coach Perry Pearn has been a catalyst for change.

Noel has tasked Pearn with lead roles for both the team's power play and penalty-killing.

Assistant coach Charlie Huddy will continue to work with the team's defencemen and the penalty killing, while assistant coach Pascal Vincent will remain hands-on with the power play.

"I had to get a feel for a guy with so much experience, NHL and experience in other leagues, and how to best utilize it," Noel said. "That took me some time."

Noel will certainly be hoping for better results ahead. The Jets were ranked 24th of 30 teams in penalty-killing last season at 80.1 per cent. Their power play was No. 11 at 17.9 per cent but when the two special-teams percentages don't add up to 100, there's work to be done.

"I really like the chemistry we have with this staff," Noel said. "And I've given some objectives to Perry in regards to working with both Charlie and Pascal. We'll take it one year at a time."

On the bench and during games, Noel has decided that he'll be flanked by both Huddy and Pearn full-time, with Huddy changing the defence and Pearn working with the forwards.

Vincent will be initially asked to contribute from high above the ice.

"But he won't be upstairs every game and all of the games," Noel said. "I've been in that position before. Pascal is a very intelligent young coach and I know he's very passionate and I know that will be a very difficult thing for him to deal with. But I'm going to make sure he's not too far away from our players during games.

"Look, there's enough work for all of us to go around. And what it does is frees me up to continue to develop relationships with the players. I have responsibilities in managing this whole thing, coaches, trainers and staff and dealing with players.

"Last year, everything was so busy all the time and there were a lot of things I wasn't able to do. I want to do more them and do them better."

Noel said he has spent a good deal of time thinking about a potential frantic, compressed season that could still be played.

"I think all the coaches are going to be in the same boat, that there's going to be a difficult time and process because there will be so many factors involved here," he said. "Seven or eight of your players are playing, others are practising to a degree and you'll have other guys you're not sure about or what they're doing."

But even after any resumption of normalcy, a certain fly-by-the-seat-of-one's-pants theme is almost certain.

"It'll be more intense, a shorter span, how many games in how many days? And team dynamics? What will that be like? And the 13 or 14 players who have not been in heavy competition, somewhere in there there could be problems, things you can't anticipate or things you can anticipate but you don't know who and what."

While the lockout has dragged on, said he has worked diligently at keeping busy -- he brought the Jets' coaching staff together again for meetings last week, for instance -- and trying to catch up in some personal ways.

"Really trying to get organized," he said. "When we came here two years ago with the Moose, we moved here on Sept. 1 and I went straight to Vancouver. That year was busy, and I didn't really unpack my desk and get organized very well. And then that season rolled into the Jets and I had to build a staff.

"So this has at least given me some time to get organized and unpack some things at home."

Self-evaluation and self-improvement have occupied much of his lockout time.

As well, he has found ways to get onto the ice, working with three minor-hockey teams on Mondays at the MTS Iceplex.

"I have way too much energy right now and my passion level is quite high. So on the ice I am a raging lunatic at times," he said.

That's the gung-ho Noel Jets fans know and they'll be glad to hear with his whistle and coaching hat, he has similar expectations for pros and kids.

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2012 C1

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