In an extremely candid interview with the Winnipeg Free Press‘ Gary Lawless, Claude Noel discusses his firing from the Jets – the firing wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it still choked him up.
I did cry but not there. I felt it was coming. I knew what was happening. I wasn’t shocked by it. It was a short meeting with Kevin and we didn’t talk much about it. I had some questions. Just the nuts and bolts. I held my head high. Where it was emotional for me, it was tough to go in the office that evening and pack my stuff. And then walk around the locker-room one last time. I was alone there. It was hard.
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a coach upset to be let go from the Thrashers/Jets franchise before, so honestly, that’s a good sign that he cared.
The most telling part of the interview with Lawless (and it is a good one – read the thing in its entirety), was his discussing what needed to be done to get the team to succeed. It doesn’t sound like they’re too far away, but they have one huge hurdle to overcome – their attitudes.
First of all, they’re in a tough conference. I think that they can (be a playoff team) but some people are going to have to step up and have good years. Some are going to have to step up and take a bite. To make yourself accountable to each other, take a bite, and say ‘we’ve had enough.’ I’m saying that of the players. You just have to take hold of the team. I felt, when I had this team, we could make the playoffs. But we needed to be better, and stronger in some areas. It’s got to hurt more to lose. [emph. mine] You have to be tired of it. You gotta be fed up. They have to decide what they’re going to do. I think they’re capable, but some people are going to have to have good years.
That quote is so telling of the attitude the Jets have. If they don’t care if they’re average – or below average in a very difficult conference in a very tough division, then they’ll never be a playoff team until every team in front of them in the Central Division standings implodes. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that’s not an effective strategy for making the playoffs. The trick is, how do you change this mindset? Is it Paul Maurice? Is it management taking ownership of the flaws in the team? Fixing some glaring issues could go miles in improving their confidence and hopefully their attitudes.
If not, welcome to Atlanta, Winnipeg. You may be here for a while.