When Chuck Duboff headed for lunch at Stella's Cafe in Winnipeg on Friday the last person he expected to run into was Winnipeg Jets' coach Claude Noel. But the waiter sat Duboff right next to the coach and they struck up a conversation. Duboff, who shares Jets' season tickets with a group of friends, said he thanked Noel for his work last season and figured that would be the end of their chat. It wasn't.
Duboff and Noel got into a long talk about the players, fans and ownership. Duboff dutifully wrote down a summary of their conversation (he also got a picture of himself with the coach). Among the highlights:
* "The Jets "played [goalie]Ondrej Pavelec about ten games too many; he was worn out by the end of the year." [Pavelec played in 68 games]
* Noel asked Duboff if he knew "how to motivate [forward Nik]Antropov so that he plays with passion more than just a few games." [Antropov finished with 15 goals and 20 assists]
* The coaches "had their exit meetings with all the players Tuesday and Wednesday...he told me that he really gave it to [forward Alexander] Burmistrov and that he really has to pick his game up next season." [Burmistrov had 13 goals and 15 assists]
* "Burmistrov should have stayed in the OHL for a couple of seasons." [This was his second NHL season]
* "The GST line [Tanner Glass, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn]should be a fourth line, not third."
* Noel said "We don't have enough top line talent to match up against the top teams."
* Noel "felt overwhelmed the last time playing Pittsburgh...didn't know how to match up against all of the Penguins talent."
* Defenceman "Paul Postma, down in St. John's, is ready for next year."
* Forward "Jason Jaffray [also with the St. John's Ice Caps]is too slow for the NHL."
* Noel "can't believe what a big fan [True North co-owner, and Toronto billionaire,]David Thomson is [he also controls the Globe and Mail]"
* Noel "spent the first two months trying to get the players to break bad habits and practice at a higher level...he said too many players were floating during the first part of the season."
* Noel said "it's going to take a while to change the 'losing culture' from the Thrashers...he said the Moose had a winning culture and that has been passed on to St. John's" [Noel coached the AHL's Moose in Winnipeg for one season before joining the Jets last summer. The Moose moved to St. John's.]
* Noel said he "loved [foward]Spencer Mahachek's energy." [Machacek spent most of the season in St. John's but played 13 games with the Jets, scoring twice and getting seven assists]
* Noel also 'thinks the fans in Winnipeg are amazing and that the players were overwhelmed by it."
True North spokesman Scott Brown said the team would not be commenting "on anything a fan supposedly had to say to coach [Noel] Brown added that the company was disappointed Duboff's comments had come out at all "since it's an unsubstantiated conversation."
Duboff said he stood by his recounting of the discussion. "I'd stake my life on every word," he said. Noel "said every word that I wrote."