|After his cup of head coaching coffee in|
Columbus, Claude Noel finally will
realize his dream of being a full-time
NHL bench boss.
As Columbus Blue Jackets fans know, Noel was an assistant under Ken Hitchcock and then succeeded Hitch as interim head coach to finish off the 2009-2010 season. Claude was a finalist for the full-time job in Columbus, but that went to Scott Arniel.
It was during that coaching search that I was fortunate enough to devote some serious time into researching Noel's hockey coaching life, and I liked what I saw. A lot. While I won't go as far as to say that he was my favorite candidate when compared to everyone else (I suppose I, too, was entranced by the possibility of getting wunderkind Guy Boucher from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs), Noel came across as being a solid person and a really good coach. Sure, he was blessed to have Nashville's draft-centric feeder system at his disposal as head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, but you can't overlook that he took the Admirals to the AHL Calder Cup finals twice, winning once. In a town that desperately needs winning hockey, Noel conclusively demonstrated that he knew how to get it done. Combine that with the winning record that he cobbled together as CBJ interim coach with a virtual AHL roster, and I was satisfied that Columbus would do just fine with Noel at the helm for the long haul.
Strangely, Noel never seemed to be taken seriously in Columbus. Every coach in every sport has personality quirks, and Noel is no different. I suppose he didn't pass the detached "kool kid" factor that apparently is important for coaches in this town. It's not enough to be a proven winner, I suppose.
Anyway, Columbus' loss is Winnipeg's gain. Noel inherits a former Atlanta Thrashers team that, while not the best in the league, has a number of solid building blocks in place thanks to the work of Atlanta GM Rick Dudley and the fire sale conducted by the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The cupboard is not bare in the 'peg - not in the least - and Noel is the type of coach who can capitalize on this opportunity.
Perhaps this is the highest compliment I can offer: I'm glad he's coaching in the NHL's Eastern Conference while the CBJ (hopefully!) wrap up their time in the West. Good luck, Coach Noel. You deserve every success you achieve.