When you think of top coaches around the league, names like Mike Babcock, Joel Quenneville, and Claude Julien usually jump out first. 2013 Jack Adams Award winner Paul MacLean has done plenty in his first two years as a head coach to butt into the conversation.
MacLean inherited a Sens team from former coach Cory Clouston two seasons ago that had low expectations. He wound up taking them to the playoffs, nearly upsetting the No. 1 team in the East in the opening round. Not bad for a guy who spent eight years as an assistant to Mike Babcock (two in Anaheim, six in Detroit).
In a short amount of time, he’s gotten his share of recognition. MacLean missed out on the Adams Award in 2012 losing to Ken Hitchcock but won it this past season after a campaign marred by injuries at all positions. He led the Senators to the fifth spot in the East and a first-round playoff series win over Montreal.
Work like that makes him either a genius coach or a master magician. Now with realignment becoming a reality, MacLean will have to compete with his former team (Detroit) and former captain (Daniel Alfredsson) and with higher expectations as well.
If he can succeed with these new challenges to face up, it’ll be impossible to ignore him as one of the league’s best coaches.
Next summer for the New York Rangers could be a bit of an adventure when it comes to contracts.
Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, and Dan Girardi are all due to become unrestricted free agents after the season and GM Glen Sather, no doubt, would like to keep all three on Broadway.
As Larry Brooks of the New York Post notes, however, those three are waiting for contract talks to begin.
Understand, it’s not as if negotiations with any or all of the Big Three have hit snags. Fact is, Slap Shots has been told, negotiations have yet to even begin with the franchise goaltender, the captain or the first-pair, right-side defenseman.
Sather says he will be talking with them but the question is: When? New York, the city not the team, is known for doing things fast and you’d have to think locking down three of your best players would provide that kind of motivation.
Scoping out CapGeek you can see the Rangers will have a lot of choices to make next year. They’ll also have a lot of cap space to play with and likely more when/if the cap goes up next season. Maybe Sather wants to know just how much it’ll be.
When you think of the Ottawa Senators your thoughts don’t generally turn toward who is in goal. With the current team, you’re more likely to think about Jason Spezza or Erik Karlsson. Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner would like to change your mind about that.
Last season Anderson battled injury (like most of the rest of the team) and started in just 24 of 48 games. In those games, however, he was brilliant. He put up league-leading numbers in save percentage (.941) and goals against average (1.69) while going 24-12-9 leading Ottawa to the fifth seed in the East.
Numbers like those will usually put you at the front of the list for the Vezina Trophy. It’s that sort of effort that has to make Sens coach Paul MacLean breathe easier when it comes to who to play in net. Of course, it’s not as simple as it seems as he’s also got a hot shot youngster in Lehner as his backup.
Lehner’s numbers in the AHL with Binghamton the past two seasons weren’t the kind to make you think he was a top prospect, but when he took over the backup job in Ottawa last season he took off.
Lehner went 5-3-4 in his starts last season with a .936 SV% and a 2.20 GAA. If you have that kind of action to spell your starter, you’re going to win a lot of games.
No wonder people are looking at the Senators as Cup contenders. Scoring on them might prove to be impossible.
Danny Briere’s return home to Quebec has him gushing over getting to play for the team he grew up adoring.
Stu Cowan at the Montreal Gazette hears from the 35 year-old veteran who is feeling like a kid again after making his first visit to the team facilities.
“I grew up a Canadiens fan so pulling on that jersey for the first time today was special,” Briere said.
“Today was my first time in the dressing room. I’ve seen the Bell Centre a lot but it’s nice to see it from the good side.”
Briere will be donning his familiar No. 48 with the Canadiens and looking to step into a lineup that’s not lacking in offensive talent.
Montreal may not be run-and-gun the way the Flyers have been, but skating alongside Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty could help Briere get back in the goal column more often.
One of the more interesting free agents available this summer is Carolina forward Chad LaRose.
While the Hurricanes may have wanted to keep in the fold, they’re not sure how to get a hold of him.
Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer notes in his column on LaRose that he seems to have just disappeared without so much as a phone call or a “Dear John” letter.
His contract with the Hurricanes expired June 30. He didn’t show up for his end-of-season exit interview, according to Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford. He has not been reachable through multiple phone or text messages this summer.
If his own team is having trouble reaching him, teams that may have been interested in the unrestricted free agent are likely having similar luck. DeCock notes LaRose’s career is apparently ending the way it started: Out of the blue.
At 31 years-old he’s likely got a few more years of game in him if he wants to play. Considering he’s fallen off the grid he might just be done with the game.