MINNEAPOLIS — Claude Noel was hired as coach of the transplanted Winnipeg franchise Friday, returning to the NHL and joining a team that has missed the playoffs the last four seasons and is still without a name.
“Claude is someone that can teach, bring players together as a group, make the sum better than the whole of their parts,” general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said at a news conference before the NHL draft.
Noel was an interim head coach in the NHL with Columbus. He coached the AHL’s Manitoba Moose last season, leading them to a 43-40-1-6 record.
Before that he spent three years with the Blue Jackets, first as an assistant and then as head coach after Ken Hitchcock was fired in February 2010. He did not get the job when the season ended. He has also coached in the AHL, ECHL and IHL. But now he’s where he wants to be.
“There was a lot of emotion,” he said. “You know, I’ve gone through this process a few times and I’m a little older and I thought, ‘Jeez, I hope my day’s coming.’ I thought my day would come and I can’t tell you how happy I am.”
His hiring ends a coaching search that lasted two or three weeks, bringing him to a team that is relocating from Atlanta and still doesn’t have a name, though it’s ready to ditch Thrashers.
The Thrashers were coached by Craig Ramsay last season and finished 34-36-12, fourth in the Southeast Division.
Nole was shopping with his family when Cheveldayoff called with the news Wednesday night.
“I can’t wait to get started,” he said.
The 55-year-old Noel was chosen over Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland, who has worked with Cheveldayoff. Noel and assistant GM Craig Heisinger spent last year with the Moose.
“(Haviland) was a qualified candidate,” Cheveldayoff said. “I know him personally after obviously winning a Stanley Cup championship with him. But in this situation here, you have to take personal relationships out of it. He was very professional, he was extremely thankful for the opportunity.”
“Again, when Zinger and I sat down and went to the final conclusion, we said ‘we don’t think we can make a bad choice here.’ We just think that this is the right choice for moving forward.”
Noel has a few candidates in mind for assistants and hopes to sign them quickly.
“It’s really important that you make sure you get people that are loyal and you can trust,” he said. “Because we are going to have to dig in as a staff, there is no question that we’re going have some areas we’re going to have to dig in. We’re going to have to find some solutions.”