The Winnipeg Jets have dismissed head coach Claude Noel and replaced him with Paul Maurice after a five-game losing streak.
Under Noel's guidance, the Jets dropped 10 points behind the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said the decision wasn’t an easy one, but it came down to wins and losses.
“It became apparent over the last little while here that things are not trending in the right direction, and we were going to have to do something to try and move things back into a fashion of moving forward,” he said.
That something was hiring Maurice, a coach with experience leading the Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs with an NHL record of 460-457-167.
“This is something that none of us take lightly and from that standpoint we’re very fortunate to have someone like Paul coming in at this point,” said Cheveldayoff.
The team also axed assistant coach Perry Pearn but did not immediately announce who would replace him.
The decision to dismiss Pearn was part of giving Maurice an opportunity to implement his own style of coaching, Cheveldayoff said.
“[Pearn] and Claude had very good synergy together, and I just felt that moving forward to give Paul the best opportunity, as I sat back and looked at the situation, I needed to give him some help on the staff side of it and give him some opportunity to spread what he wanted to spread,” he said.
Responsibility for losses shared by organization, GM says
Cheveldayoff told reporters he wasn’t happy to have to let Noel go.
“Certainly for me, it wasn’t a good day,” he said. “Would I have liked to have been able to have some pieces that clicked a little bit better for [Claude] right now? Absolutely.”
Noel was hired in the 2011-12 season after the Atlanta Thrashers were relocated to Winnipeg. He went 80-79-18.
“Claude did a lot,” said Cheveldayoff. “For him and me, we both obviously have some history together so it was very difficult in those regards.”
He added the responsibility for the team’s poor showing this season was shared across the organization.
“There’s a responsibility that has to be taken by everybody,” he said. “It’s not always fair, but there are some realities.”
Regardless of who was responsible, Cheveldayoff said ultimately he made the decision to get rid of Noel.
“I made the decision, yes, with lots of conversation with my staff, lots of conversation obviously with ownership but the decision was mine,” he said.
Winnipeg Jet Blake Wheeler told CBC News he felt responsible for Noel's firing, a sentiment echoed by his fellow players.
“Entirely responsible. We’re all responsible,” Wheeler said.
Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien said the move was a stark reminder to players about the cost of losing.
“It’s tough. It’s part of the job. No one is safe,” said Byfuglien.
Olli Jokinen agreed, saying, “I think everyone knows what happens next if things don’t go well. The players are going to get shipped out.”
Jokinen also took part of the blame for the firing, telling CBC, “We let the coaching staff down. You can’t change 25 players.”
Players not safe from scrutiny
Cheveldayoff told reporters he would be sitting down with Maurice to take a hard look at the roster.
“They’re 25 individual athletes. They all have different talents. They all have different abilities,” he said. “[Maurice] and I will sit down and have some candid conversations about each and every player.”
He said Maurice would be in Winnipeg by Sunday night and would begin looking at what changes needed to be made on the team.
“Will further changes have to be made over the course of time? Sure,” said Cheveldayoff.
The Jets next game is Monday night against the Phoenix Coyotes at the MTS Centre.