By Lindsay Kramer
Depending upon your perspective, there are many different ways to look at Columbus head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Former ECHL coach Claude Noel sees him as something of a professional growth chart. He measured himself against Hitchcock as an assistant under him for Kalamazoo of the IHL a dozen years ago. Columbus gave Noel a chance to revisit that role on a much bigger stage when it plucked him from Milwaukee of the AHL last week and made him an assistant with the Blue Jackets.
“He was the one who really taught me a lot about coaching,’’ Noel said of Hitchcock. “I thought I was OK. But when I started working with him, I thought; ‘Whoa, I have a long way to go.’ He was prepared, very, very aware. It will be interesting to see the growth from where I’ve come and where he’s gone in 12 years.’’
The job will be Noel’s first coaching chance in the NHL, an opportunity he richly deserves based on a big-time run of success in four seasons with the Admirals.
Noel led the club to a 183-94-11-32 regular-season record, three 100-point seasons and two West Division titles. He also compiled a 33-21 record in the Calder Cup playoffs, including two appearances in the Finals and a championship in 2003-04. That year, Noel was named the AHL Coach of the Year.
Noel said some of his players occasionally expressed surprise that he didn’t get a promotion earlier. Noel said he tried to use his situation as an example for them, telling them that an extended stay in the minors was an opportunity to get better.
“My answers usually were; “My time will come. I’m going to continue to improve,’’’ Noel said. “That’s what it’s all about. It (leaving) is a feeling of mixed emotions. I’ve built great relationships here. I’ve had some success here. But it’s time for me to take the next step. I was confident in my abilities, that this day would come.’’