By Scott Billeck
Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel addressed the media Wednesday morning on the first day of Winnipeg Jets training camp. With a flurry of off-season activity, including locking up some of their core players, Noel spoke about how he is happy with his team and how it is built as the Jets get set to test the waters of the Western Conference.
“I think that the Western Conference is a conference that has got size and speed,” said Noel. “For our team, I think we have got the size and we got speed with the additions with the players that we have added. That has given us some depth and some skill, and with the changes we have made this summer it fits into that conference.
“I like our team and the way it is built.”
Noel knows that no team is perfect and outlined the areas where the Jets need to improve this season.
“One of the things we have focused on is special teams,” said Noel. “We have to be better there. One of the areas we need to have to get better, clearly, is our checking game. Our goal differential has to be on the right side of the ledger. In order to do that we are going to need a lot more of commitment from the players on both sides of the puck. I think we have size and have speed to get after teams.
“From a management standpoint, I think we made some investments in some of the players; signed some of them to long term deals and certainly put our trust in the core group of players. For me, the focus with some of the additions that we have made, how are we going to make this team play the way that we want to play to elevate us to the point to where we become a playoff team. That is really primarily what I focused on.”
The Jets waited and were patient in free agency but did eventually make a splash and signed a couple of veterans in forwards Devon Setoguchi and Michael Frolik. Noel says he will have the ability this season to evaluate his new players during training camp, something he — and the rest of the league — did not have last season.
“I think we will see with both of those players, that is why you have training camp,” Noel said. “That is the good thing about this year, you actually have games you can play and we have a chance to evaluate where they fit in.
“Setoguchi is an offensive player, Frolik has been offensive producer, on our team he will probably play a different role than he would in Chicago. But both are very capable players so where they fit and where they land will be determined by a lot of different factors through training camp.”
Depth, arguably, has been an issue for the Jets during their first two seasons back in Winnipeg. Noel feels comfortable now with the talent he has throughout the line-up going into the upcoming season.
“The more depth that you have, right now when you look at our roster, it looks like we are shaping up to have four pretty solid lines and a solid set of defence,” said Noel. “The addition of players…we have a lot of good things to look forward to on offence and defence.
“I think we have some good options if things don’t go good, we can turn around and add some other players. We have a lot of options.”