Sens coach MacLean takes piece of Wings to Ottawa
MacLean was introduced as the Senators' bench boss on Tuesday and said he intends to introduce a similar philosophy to the one he had during six successful seasons under coach Mike Babcock in the Motor City.
''I don't know if we're going to play the Red Wing way, but we're going to play a game that's going to be played with some pace and tempo,'' MacLean said. ''You've got to play 200 feet, you've got to be able to skate, and if you have the puck, you can dictate what's going on.''
MacLean is taking over for Cory Clouston, who was fired April 9 after the Senators missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. The 53-year-old MacLean is the team's ninth head coach since the modern-day franchise debuted in 1992-93.
He is the fifth person to have the job since Ottawa reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2007 with Bryan Murray at the helm. Murray took over as general manager from John Muckler following that season and promoted assistant John Paddock, who lasted less than a season. Murray then stepped behind the bench to finish the 2007-08 campaign.
Craig Hartsburg started the next season but also didn't finish it. Clouston replaced him in February 2009 and guided the Senators to the playoffs the following season. However, the Senators then took a step back with a 32-40-10 mark and a last-place finish in the Northeast Division.
''After a poor season, the need for change was obvious,'' Murray said. ''I felt Paul fit the profile (of what the team needed). He'd been a player, been a head coach, been an assistant coach in the National Hockey League. He's been a winner everywhere he's been. ... I think he brings energy, experience, expertise and people skills, most importantly.''
Clouston was criticized throughout his tenure for being too hard on his players and too rigid in his systems, prompting rumors he wasn't well liked by the team's veterans.
That likely won't be said of MacLean, who scored 324 goals and 673 points in 719 regular-season games in 11 seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets and Red Wings.
''I think it's important in the NHL today that the coach and the players communicate,'' he said. ''Communication with the players is important in empowering them and having them invest in what you're trying to do and what you're trying to accomplish. It's not me against them, it's us - the Ottawa Senators - against the rest of the league and we have to work together in order to accomplish that goal.''
MacLean, who was born in Grostenquin, France, but grew up and still resides in the offseason in Nova Scotia, certainly made a positive first impression.
''His experience with what he's been through and especially with the players he's been coaching the last while in Detroit is definitely going to be something that adds a lot to our team,'' Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. ''If you look at the way Detroit plays, it's a good team that has a lot of skill, but, at the same time, it's a really good defensive team. They play with the puck as much as they can, and I think I can see us doing the same thing.''
MacLean was part of a Red Wings coaching staff that won five division titles and made two trips to the Stanley Cup finals - winning in 2008.
He also worked in Anaheim as Babcock's assistant, while Murray was the GM, for two seasons and reached the finals with the Ducks in 2003. MacLean was also an NHL assistant in Phoenix and a head coach in the minors with Peoria and Kansas City of the IHL and Quad City of the UHL.
''I believe the National Hockey League is a fast and physical league, and the game needs to be played that way,'' MacLean said. ''You have to be able to skate the whole rink, so we're going to skate the rink, play good defense, but we're going to attack the net and make sure we're putting pressure on the opposition.
''The good thing about being with (Babcock) is that I was in on every opportunity that was done or made the Red Wing way or the Babcock way ... so I'm not stealing anything from him, I was part of it, so our system and the way that we play is probably going to be very similar.''
He will inherit a Senators team that dealt many of the remaining holdovers from 2007 over the past season to stockpile draft picks and allow players from Binghamton to gain valuable NHL experience.
MacLean still has a core that includes Alfredsson, who says he's making good progress in his recovery after recent back surgery, star center Jason Spezza, veteran defenseman Chris Phillips and goalie Craig Anderson. He has a good, young offensive defenseman in Erik Karlsson and veteran Sergei Gonchar, who is coming off a disappointing season.
Murray interviewed several candidates for the job, including Kurt Kleinendorst, who recently coached the Senators' AHL affiliate in Binghamton to the Calder Cup title.
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk also went public with his desire to see Dave Cameron, coach of the Ontario Hockey League team that Melnyk owns - the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors - promoted.
In the end, Murray felt MacLean was the best fit.
''He'd gone through that environment in Detroit, we went to the final in Anaheim, and I know he played a big part in that and I knew he was ready to coach,'' Murray said. ''He's got that presence about him of a guy that can take charge.''