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.
Now that the St. Louis Blues have come out and Ken Hitchcock blocked the Columbus Blue Jackets, what now for the Jackets who were rumored to be thinking of replacing Scott Arniel with their one-time head coach? While Hitchcock was presumed to be their top option, they’re now left to look around elsewhere if a move at the top is on the way. But who?
Here’s our short list of potential candidates now that the Blues have swept through and stolen the Jackets’ idea.
Therrien hasn’t seen the light of day behind a NHL bench since being fired by Pittsburgh in 2009. Therrien’s defensive-minded style of coaching is similar enough to Hitchcock’s in that it would potentially help out Steve Mason. The big question is: Has Therrien grown up enough to lead such a young team? He was good enough to help set the Penguins up for glory, doing the same in Columbus would make him a savior.
Gordon was seen to have gotten a raw deal when he was fired by the Islanders and Gordon is still thought to be one of the brighter young minds out there. He’s coached Team USA at the World Championships and now he’s Ron Wilson’s assistant in Toronto. He’ll get another head job soon but would Columbus roll the dice? Tough to think they’d do that after doing the same with Arniel.
Clouston has a tough reputation after his time in Ottawa. He made Dany Heatley want out of town but he also took an otherwise brutally talented Sens team to the playoffs in 2009. He’s tough on his players but a very smart hockey man. He’s got a good gig coaching the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, but if the NHL calls again he’d certainly answer. Much like Gordon, however, he might be seen as a roll of the dice.
Hey, why not? It seems like Payne got a raw deal in St. Louis after the myriad of injuries the Blues have seen and his record in St. Louis, all told, was good (67-55-15). While he didn’t get the overtime/shootout losses needed to keep things afloat this year, the Blues played hard for him and were a threat to make the playoffs late the last two seasons. If he can snap things around in Columbus, that’d be the ultimate payback to the Blues for stealing their plans.
He’s currently Arniel’s assistant right now and while Arniel likely didn’t feel the heat from that appointment before the season, perhaps that was the warning shot he needed. Richards struggled getting a system in place when he coached the Minnesota Wild for two seasons and having him fill Arniel’s shoes on an interim basis would likely be the easiest move to make. Whether that’s a long term fix, however, would be up for debate and might just be seen as a lateral move. The Jackets aren’t in need of a lateral move if they’re going to make the playoffs.
As we discussed yesterday, the Ottawa Senators will indeed make Paul MacLean (and his astounding mustache) their new head coach. They announced as much in a press conference today, making strong rumors official.
This move ranks as the latest step in the period of half-change the Senators are going through. On one hand, they’ve retained GM Bryan Murray and stalwarts such as defensive defenseman Chris Phillips. That being said, they’ve flushed out some familiar faces, including the firing of former head coach Cory Clouston and some trades, most notably sending Mike Fisher to the Nashville Predators.
The biggest changes will be behind the bench and in net, though. MacLean brings lengthy experience working under Mike Babcock in Anaheim and Detroit but perhaps most importantly is familiar with Murray from their days with Ducks as well. Much of his successes or failures will be pinned on the work of Craig Anderson, a promising goalie who received what seems like an excessive contract considering his limited track record as a No. 1 netminder.
Let’s take a look at a few of the Senators’ comments about hiring their new coach.
“Paul brings a weath of experience as both a coach and teacher of the game,” said Murray. “He has been a winner during his coaching career and comes to Ottawa from an organization that has a history of both success on the ice and in developing players. He is a competitive person and we expect that our teams will display that same trait night-in and night-out.”
“Paul represents a big part of the change we needed to bring to our hockey club,” added Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. “The fact is we are a very different looking hockey team compared to a year ago. Bryan and I agreed it was important for him to bring in someone who is a solid communicator, can easily build a strong rapport with our players and has a proven track record of winning NHL games and Stanley Cups. Paul represents all of this, and I’m pleased to welcome him to Ottawa and the Senators organization.”
Here is a little more background regarding MacLean from yesterday’s post.
MacLean spent two seasons (2002-03 and 03-04) as Babcock’s assistant in Anaheim before working with him for six more seasons in Detroit. His only head coaching experience comes in the IHL and UHL, where he most recently won a UHL championship with the Quad City Mallards in 2000-01. Before entering coaching, MacLean had a lengthy NHL career highlighted by a 101 point season with the Winnipeg Jets in 1984-85.
He was originally born in France, although he reportedly moved to Canada when he was two years old. While Senators fans hope that MacLean can bring some of that Red Wings competence to what has been an unruly Ottawa franchise, they can delight in his wonderful mustache even in the darkest of times.