When Manitoba Moose GM Craig Heisinger decided on Claude Noel as his coach this season, Wednesday was exactly what he had in mind for Noel's particular brand of talent and insight.
Any number of coaches, armchair quarterbacks and expert pundits could make most of the run-of-the-mill decisions throughout the seasons, but the day after Game 3 of the Moose-Lake Erie Monsters playoff series called for a higher pay grade.
The Moose lost that Game 3 by a count of 2-1 and despite having had ample opportunity to win the first game of the series in their own barn, they fell behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven first-round series.
Was the problem goaltending? Again? Was it stale line combinations? Was it a flawed game plan? Was it a lousy power play? Was it dull skates? Was it sticks behind held too tightly?
The spectrum of possible worry for Noel was wide. In chatting with reporters after his team engaged in an optional practice at the MTS Centre, the answers were both so wide and so narrow, they qualified as simply another day of playoff clichés.
The coach opened with a cryptic "There will be lineup changes," but before inquiring minds could tee up the possibilities, he added: "No one knows anything there other than me."
Noel almost confirmed that any potential changes will not include players from the injured list, which is rather too bad, since centre Joel Perrault and defenceman Ryan Parent and their experience ought to stand out at this time of year.
But whether there will be ins, outs, line juggling and even a goaltending change for tonight's Game 4 at the MTS Centre (7:30 p.m., CJOB) remains anyone's guess.
"Sometimes you as a coach have got to find the right buttons to put in the right areas to develop chemistry that helps them," Noel said, mixing metaphors just enough to keep everyone guessing. "I've got to help them out. Sometimes that's the roster moves you've got to make."
And then this playful gem: "Could be (goalie Tyler) Weiman playing centre, could be all kinds of things," he said.
On the subject of Weiman, who took over the net for regular-season team MVP Eddie Lack late in the Game 1 loss in Cleveland, Noel said he didn't much care for Lake Erie's first goal on Tuesday night, a high, sharp-angle shot from David van der Gulik.
"I didn't like the goal," the coach said of the early second-period marker that tied the game. "I thought it was OK. I didn't care for the goal but that's how those things go. We had our chances (earlier). That's the game."
Not much of a hint there whether he'll continue with Weiman tonight, or switch back to Lack.
And the rest of the question-and-answer session, with various reporters fishing for proclamations, yielded little that was concrete.
"It doesn't matter where you play them," Noel said, asked about possibly going back to Cleveland up, down or not at all, for that matter. "They're all must-win games.
"When you look back, it could come down potentially to that third period, or that second period, however you want to look at it, of Game 3.
"But the game's out there now. It's on the table for both teams. It's going to play itself out now. Every game's going to be a big game.
"We have to win the next game, otherwise we're in a little bit of a hole. If not (that), we're tied and it's a shorter series."
And even if his team has so frequently been the question mark that seemed to be Wednesday's theme, Noel made at least one thing crystal clear.
"It's not because they're not trying," he said about being down 2-1 in the series. "They're doing their best to do what they're trying to do. I have no problem with our team, our players."
From the coach's pay grade, there is at least meaning in that.