Following the club’s 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel addressed why he elected to bench forward Evander Kane for much of the first and second period, and he certainly didn’t hide his thoughts on the rising young star’s effort.
Seeing just 4;19 minutes of ice-time in the first period and then 6:19 in the second, Kane, the Jets leading goal-scorer and point-getter, was often left on the bench when his regular linemates Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little took their shifts. Noel pointed to what he thought was a poor start to the game by Kane who he said played with a lack of fire.
“I wasn’t happy with the way he started the game,” said Noel in his post-game press-conference. “Are you going to play or are you not? Figure it out. So I’m not going to wait for the game to start. The game’s started. I saw two or three shifts and I’d seen enough. Like, what do you want to do here?”
Not often will you see a head coach call out a young, star player in that manner, but in his first year as an NHL bench boss, Noel hasn’t exactly been the type to follow the protocol of a coach. While some will disagree with this motivational tactic particularly with a young player like Evander Kane, that is exactly what this was; a motivational tactic.
Noel knows he needs his best forward to be at his best for a big game against a good team.
Whether or not the player is at his best in terms of production is one thing, but the real issue Noel made clear in this intstance is that he won’t accept that player not being ready to give a full effort right from the opening face-off.
Did removing Kane from his team’s top line improve the club’s chance of winning? Probably not, but winning is something that can be sacrificed when it involves getting your players to buy into your system. Sometimes you have to lay success on the line in a hope that it will make the team better down the road, and the Jets will need Kane to be at his best as they continue to push for a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference.
No one likes to be called out in the media as someone who wasn’t ready to play in what was a very big game for their team, and a talented and ultra-competitive athlete like Kane is no different. He will almost certainly respond with a much better game tonight when the Jets host the San Jose Sharks in what will be the second straight contest in which the Jets will have a chance to measure themselves against one of the league’s top teams.
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Resident of Windsor, Ontario. Extensive knowledge of both the NHL and junior hockey in Canada, particularly the OHL. Writer for THW covering the Winnipeg Jets and the OHL as well as covering Phoenix Coyotes prospects for Hockey’s Future.