WINNIPEG – Scott Arniel’s appointment as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was bittersweet for Claude Noel.
After spending more than two months as interim head coach of the Blue Jackets, Noel was among the candidates for the full-time job only to lose out to Arniel.
But while Arniel’s hiring closed one door for Noel, it opened another.
Noel was named Arniel’s successor as head coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose on Monday.
“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.”
The 54-year-old from Kirkland Lake, Ont., inherits a team that has tasted success recently but hasn’t won the ultimate prize.
The Moose lost the Calder Cup championship in 2008-09 to Hershey and were eliminated by Hamilton in this year’s North Division semifinal, a season where they used 54 players and barely grabbed a playoff spot with a 40-33-7 record.
Noel knows what it takes to win as a player and coach.
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 where he also played seven games for the Washington Capitals.
The forward also won the IHL’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.
He was the AHL’s coach of the year in 2003-04 after leading Milwaukee to its first-ever Calder Cup title. He also coached the IHL’s Michigan team.
Noel had been an assistant with Columbus for three seasons and was bumped up to interim head coach after Ken Hitchcock was fired on Feb. 3. The team was 10-8-6 under Noel and missed the playoffs.
When Arniel was named Hitchcock’s successor, Noel and fellow assistants Gary Agnew and Gord Murphy were let go.
But 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.”
He says his coaching system will follow Vancouver’s, but Noel likes his teams to play with “controlled aggression.”
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.
“(I said), ‘Well, that’s the way it goes.’ But probably on the best player we chased he won (and signed Rich Peverley.)”
Now they’re on the same side.
“Something’s to be said that we were always chasing the same guys,” Heisinger said. “I think that’s a positive. There seems to be some synergy there about the type of players we like and the type of team that we’d like to have.”