Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel has become almost like a film critic when it comes to assessing his players.
While some pundits use a five-star system to rate movies, Noel has his own five-point system to rate the Jets. “Five being excellent, one being poor,” he explained Wednesday.
The player does not have to have a “faultless or errorless game,” to get the top score, he added. Instead, “you look at a guy and think what more could he do. It doesn’t have anything to do with scoring. It has everything to do with the type of player he is.”
Noel mentioned goaltender Ondrej Pavelec as one player who has earned a “five” in one or two games. He added most players got a “four” after last Monday’s 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, “which we had not seen all year.”
The challenge now is to keep it up, especially with home games upcoming against a pair of top-five Eastern Conference teams: the Washington Capitals on Thursday and Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
“I’d really like to have two good efforts in a row,” Noel said referring to the Caps. “They’ve got some explosive players, some dynamic players and we have to find a way to counter that with what we have. We have enough, we just have to play well.”
It won’t be easy. The Capitals lost last 3-1 last Tuesday to the Nashville Predators but are still far ahead of the Jets in the Southeast Division, leading with 21 points while Winnipeg is last with 15. Washington also has 56 goals for and 45 against, compared to 48 and 60, respectively, for the Jets.
Winnipeg is still coping with a series of injured players. Noel said defenceman Zach Bogosian, who has been a standout for the team lately, and forward Jim Slater are “day-to-day.” The Jets are also without defencemen Ron Hainsey and Tobias Enstrom, and forward Eric Fehr, who has yet to play this season.
Noel said Fehr has been cleared for contact and could play as early as Saturday, although he was not positive. Hainsey’s recovery is taking longer than expected while Enstrom will be out several more weeks with a broken collar bone.
Getting Fehr back is critical for Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who said he would hold off on an overall assessment of the club until Fehr is playing.
“Once we get Eric Fehr into lineup we’ll begin to truly understand where we are at with the players within our organization,” he said Wednesday. “Not having a player of his magnitude in our lineup, you don’t what he is going to bring to the table yet.”
Cheveldayoff was coy when it came to answering questions about whether he has had any discussions with other GMs about potential trades.
“There’s lots of conversations that go on daily with general managers on a lot of different things. Sometimes, those conversations morph into trade discussions and trade talks or ‘Hey would you ever consider?’ or ‘Are you considering doing anything?’ Those conversations happen daily.”
He added that in any given week he has discussions with up to three-quarters of the league GMs.
“Sometimes, those lead to things. Sometimes, there are seeds planted for the future on both sides of the coin,” Cheveldayoff said. “Because of the nature of this … you can wake up in the morning and have a defenceman hurt or a forward sick and all of sudden what you thought was a great idea yesterday, you have to put on the back burner today.”