With ten games under his belt, Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel is taking a positive outlook despite the team’s 3-6-1 record and next to last spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
“We could [have]a win or two more,” he said Sunday as the team prepared to play the Florida Panthers on Monday at the BankAtlantic Center. “But that’s okay as long as we are playing the right way and we’re getting to where we want to go we’ll be okay.”
Noel said he’s still trying to figure out each players’ strengths and weaknesses, and he has a long list of areas that need improvement. But overall he senses the team is improving and the players are eager to learn how to get better.
“We’re doing some good things as we are moving forward,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of teaching to do in establishing the way that we want to play.”
Noel is still sticking to his goal of getting 96 points and making the playoffs (the Jets have 7 points right now). But he moderated his position somewhat, saying the team will have to reassess its objectives.
“Right now we’re going to be in this period here, we are going to have to reassess our goals and the first objective for me is good team play which I saw [Saturday]night,” he said referring to the Jets 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Our next objective is, let’s get to .500 and then let’s start moving forward and getting other goals set. We are just trying to be realistic here.”
Noel’s main areas of concern are defensive zone coverage and getting his players to move the puck up the ice quickly, ideally within 10 or 15 seconds.
“We have the puck and then we are not managing it well,” he said. “It just takes time. I’m being patient.”
Scoring has also been a weak area. The Jets have scored 26 goals so far this season, but 9 of them came in a wild game against Philadelphia last week. They have also allowed 36 goals, including 8 in that game against the Flyers. That gives the team a 10 goal differential between goals for and against, the highest in the Eastern Conference and second highest in the league.
“It looks like goal scoring is going to be a fair challenge for us,” Noel said. “But as long as we can defend, I think we can still get to winning games.”