NHL

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

What, me worry?

NHL coaches can't dwell on fact they can be unemployed in an instant

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It was just a few days ago -- 'Black Monday' the sporting press called it -- that two NHL coaches, Paul Maurice and Bruce Boudreau, were fired.

And then Wednesday night, after a 4-1 win by his team, Randy Carlyle joined the ranks of the unemployed and was replaced by -- get this -- Boudreau.

What's the old line about pro hockey being a great game, but a crappy business sometimes?

"You never like that when it happens, but it's not like coaches don't know when they get into this profession what goes on," said Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel prior to Thursday's meeting with the Phoenix Coyotes.

"We know what goes on... that's just the way it goes. You can't concern yourself with what goes on around you like that. I mean, I certainly don't sit and worry about it. Whether I was doing well or not doing well, I've got enough things to do. I'm not going to worry about things I can't control.

"Coaches pour their everyday existence into the whole thing. We pour everything into the games and trying to get things going and sometimes it's just not functioning, for whatever reason."

Coyotes' head coach Dave Tippett said much the same thing: coaches, while concerned about their brothers in the fraternity, also have to take a foxhole mentality to their work.

Keep your head down, do your thing and hope the next bullet isn't fired your way.

"If you're worried about those things, you're worried about all the wrong things," Tippett said. "It's part of the business. There is so much to do in this job; if you're worried about that end of it you're not doing your job well enough. I think every coach in the league would tell you that. Every day you go in trying to figure out a plan for success -- how you're going to win, how you can get a group moving in the right direction, and the ability to do that sometimes works better than others.

"The coaches that were let go this week are all very good coaches. I've coached against Randy for a long time -- he's an excellent coach. It's part of the business, I've been through it before, it's just the way it goes sometimes."

What's interesting is this: with four coaching changes already in the NHL this season -- Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice in Carolina; Dale Hunter steps in for Boudreau in Washington; Boudreau for Carlyle in Anaheim and Ken Hitchcock for Davis Payne in St. Louis -- Noel has moved up four slots on the chart of current coaches with the longest tenures with their current clubs.

And including Thursday night's game against the Coyotes he had worked the Jets' bench for all of 25 games.

"It's the nature of the beast, what can you say? It's tough," Noel said. "My only thought when you get released as a coach is it takes you some time to sort out what's gone on in your world. You're really disappointed in yourself. To me you need time to make a self analysis and a self assessment of how you've done and where it went wrong.

"There really hasn't been that period with the transaction that happened (Wednesday) night (Boudreau for Carlyle). That's a short time. You walk into another team and you've had no time to analyse your own. I can't imagine the summer that Bruce is going to have. By the time he figures out what happened in Washington and figures out what's going on in Anaheim... I'm not sure he might be in Venus by the time summer happens."

-- with files from Adam Wazny

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 2, 2011 C3

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