Paul MacLean’s steady hand guides Ottawa

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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.