Manitoba Moose hire new coach

The AHL's Manitoba Moose and the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets have completed a head-coach switcheroo.

The American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose and the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets have completed a head-coach switcheroo.

On Monday, the Moose introduced Claude Noel as their new bench boss — two weeks after Moose coach Scott Arniel was introduced as the new head coach in Columbus.

Noel had been with the Blue Jackets for three seasons and was promoted to interim head coach when Ken Hitchcock was fired in February.

He led the team to a 10-8-6 (win-loss-overtime/shootout loss) record, but Columbus finished the season with a 32-35-15 record, leaving the club in 27th place out of 30 teams.

Management decided to clean house and Noel was cut loose.

"I was disappointed, but I was kind of relieved that it was over with because I'd been waiting for two months, pretty much, trying to figure out what I'm going to do," Noel said of being passed over in Columbus. "And I don't sit idle real well. I'm a guy that wants to be on the move and I'm just thinking hockey all the time."

Luckily, it wasn't long before his phone started to ring, with calls coming about various NHL assistant openings and AHL head coaching jobs.

"I thought it was pretty good," he said. "I move forward right away. I'm not looking back."

Noel has been coaching for 20 years in a number of professional hockey leagues, and returns to the AHL with a resumé that includes a Calder Cup championship in 2003 when he was a rookie coach with the Milwaukee Admirals.

Former AHL coach of the year

Noel was awarded the Louis A. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL coach of the year that season.

Speaking to reporters in Winnipeg on Monday, Noel said he's excited to coach in a strong hockey market.

"I know the fans are passionate. I know what they want here," he said.

"At the end of the day, everybody wants to win, but I think here in Canada, it's first and foremost."

He spent most of his playing days in the AHL and former International Hockey League. He won the AHL's Calder Cup championship with Hershey in 1979-80, a season that also saw him play seven games for the Washington Capitals.

The forward also won the International Hockey League's Turner Cup in 1982-83 with Toledo and was named the league's most valuable player after amassing 124 points in the regular season. He retired in 1988 while with Milwaukee.

His coaching career began in 1990 as the head coach of the ECHL's Roanoke Valley Rebels. He was also an ECHL head coach with Dayton and Toledo and was named coach of the year with Toledo in 2002-03.

Noel believes his NHL experience will be valuable with the Moose, the farm team for the Vancouver Canucks.

"I think it really helps me now when I come back to this level, knowing what it really takes to play at that [NHL] level," Noel said. "I think it'll make me a better coach."

Aggressive on the ice

The 54-year-old from Kirkland Lake, Ont., also said he is not a passive coach and will push his team to be aggressive on the ice.

"I like to keep the pace up. I like to have the opponent try and carry the pace that we're setting and I just like to play hard and fast," he said. "I don't like to sit."

Moose general manager Craig Heisinger is confident Noel will fit in well. The two have a history, often chasing the same players when Noel had some personnel duties when he was head coach of Milwaukee.

"He called me one day and just said, 'I'm sick and tired of calling these guys and you're two days ahead of me all the time,"' Heisinger said with a smile.

Noel is the sixth coach in the 15-year history of the Moose.

Three of those coaches have moved on to the NHL — Randy Carlyle, Alain Vigneault, and Arniel.

In his four years with the team, Arniel collected a record of 181-105-10-19 and led the Moose to the Calder Cup final in 2009, losing to Hershey.

Arniel also won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award in 2008-09 after guiding the Moose to their second regular-season division title in three seasons.

With files from The Canadian Press