Sunday, February 14, 2010

Claude Noel: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Since Claude Noel took over as CBJ head coach, the team beat Dallas, beat Buffalo, beat San Jose, lost to Vancouver and lost in a shootout to Chicago.  That's  7 out of a possible 10 points - and 3 out of a possible 6 against the top three teams in the Western Conference.  So Noel got 7 points in 5 games.  At the end, Ken Hitchcock got 6 points in his last 6 games.  Considering the Jackets haven't set the world on fire since making the coaching change, is Noel - novelty of his personality quirks and coaching idiosyncrasies aside - performing well enough to keep him on as CBJ head coach?

I'm going to say the obvious: Noel is doing OK - better than Hitch with the same players.  That being said, he hasn't done enough to preclude Scott Howson from conducting a full-blown search for a head coach.  

What Noel has going for him is that he's coaching in a manner more suited to to the table that Howson has set for him.  He's spreading the minutes, playing the kids, pushing the puck up the ice and not letting the players get stuck in a "paralysis by analysis" mode.  

At the same time, the last couple games are starting to show the same cracks in the CBJ armor that we saw in Ken Hitchcock's waning days.  Steve Mason is looking inconsistent.  The Jackets seemingly go to sleep for extended periods.  The defense opens up like a sieve (which doesn't help Mason one bit.).  

It's clearly better.  But it's not enough at this point.  Barring a mind-bending winning streak after the Olympic break, I think Scott Howson's going to be conducting a search.  Noel might be validated through such a process, but that won't happen without playing the field.  

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