April 30, 2012
MacLean gets Jack Adams nod
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
OTTAWA - The hard work could pay off with hardware for Paul MacLean.
The Senators coach’s efforts in his rookie season didn’t go unnoticed as he was nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy as NHL coach of the year on Monday. The other nominees are Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and John Tortorella, whose New York Rangers beat MacLean’s Sens in Game 7 of the first round last Thursday.
The winner will be announced during the NHL’s annual awards ceremony in Las Vegas on June 20.
MacLean, 54, sounded thrilled to be among the three finalists.
“My initial reaction is that this is a little bit humbling,” said MacLean. “Taking this position, I didn’t really do it for this.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the play of our players and how well they took direction, how hard they worked as a group to make the team have success and (allow) individuals to have success.
“The coaching staff did a lion’s share of the work and I basically stood in front and took all the credit, but I think it’s a credit to our coaching staff and organization.”
Working as an assistant with Mike Babcock in Detroit and Anaheim, MacLean wondered if he’d ever get the chance to be a head coach in the NHL. So, was his first season everything he expected it to be?
“And harder,” he said. “And, then harder again. Anytime you do something for the first time, you can say you’re prepared and ready for everything. Once you get into it and do it, you realize this is harder than you expect.
“I felt that I was ready do it and I was able to overcome any of the obstacles we faced with the staff that I had and with Bryan Murray as the (GM).”
MacLean said the turning point of the season was Oct. 18 after a 7-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at home.
“That’s really when everything came together as far as the coaching staff and the players,” said MacLean. “The team figured we had to find an identity. We were searching for what we were going to be.
“The meetings we had with the captains — Daniel (Alfredsson), Chris (Phillips) and Jason (Spezza) — was pivotal in us finding our identity in getting some traction and getting things going.
After nearly three years under coach Cory Clouston, the Sens improved in a big way under MacLean. With MacLean a former player, the Senators respect the message and know it comes from someone who has taken strides in their skates.
“All of our coaching staff did a great job of making it exciting to come to the rink,” said winger Nick Foligno. “We enjoyed being here and learning. (MacLean) makes the hard work fun.
“You don’t realize you’ve been skating a lot until after practice. It’s amazing. He did a great job for us. He’s just come in, gotten to know everybody really well and understands what makes you (thrive). That’s what allows everybody to play their best. He knows when to push buttons and when to let it off. That’s what makes him such a great coach.”
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was happy for MacLean.
“It’s well-deserved. I can’t think of a single player I’ve talked with (that doesn’t) see it as a completely different dressing room,” said Melnyk. “This is a coach, a teacher, a mentor. He knows when to be tough, when to be the educator. That’s what coaching is all about.”