MacLean likely to be Sens coach

Red Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean is a leading candidate to become the next head coach of the...

Red Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean is a leading candidate to become the next head coach of the Senators. (JAMIE SABAU/Getty Images)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:35 PM ET

OTTAWA - Paul MacLean is going to be the next coach of the Senators.

Now, I’m not 100% sure of this. I would not bet my truck. But of the candidates uncovered by the Sun in recent weeks, MacLean seems to be the most logical choice.

Of course, that is if the decision really is with GM Bryan Murray and not owner Eugene Melnyk.

Let’s believe it is, if only because the boss says so.

The winner is going to come from what is a six-man field, of that I’m 99% certain. Still not enough to bet the truck, but just about anything else.

Here’s how I see the race breaking down, from back to front:

6. Gerard Gallant, Saint John Sea Dogs

Gallant’s junior record is phenomenal. In two seasons behind the Sea Dogs’ bench, he is 111-19-1-2 and he won the Memorial Cup a couple of weeks ago. Four Sea Dogs are projected to get selected in the first round of the NHL draft, which the Senators currently have the sixth and 21st picks. Gallant was a good, tough NHL winger. He was in the league from 1984-1995, playing three seasons for Murray in Detroit. Along with being an assistant coach for the Blue Jackets and Islanders, he was the Columbus bench boss for 147 games between 2004-2007. He won 56 of them. If Murray is going to take a junior coach, however, he’d be hard-pressed to tell Melnyk it’s not his guy.

5. Dave Cameron, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors

In a TV interview at the Memorial Cup, Melnyk said if it was up to him, he’d hire Cameron, but then added the decision is in Murray’s hands. He should have just said the decision is in Murray’s hands. If Murray hires Cameron now and says that this was the best candidate, his No. 1 choice all along, there will be many of us who won’t believe him. We will be sure (although not quite certain enough to bet a truck) that he was following orders from above. We might even think that, when Melnyk gave Murray his extension a couple of months ago, he told his GM that Cameron would be his next coach. Cameron is a quality coach, no doubt. He left a job in the pros to coach Melnyk’s OHL team with some sort of assurance that by making the step backward he would be repaid with NHL employment down the road. Don’t be surprised if he is promoted to an assistant’s job in Ottawa.

4. Kirk Muller, Montreal Canadiens

Muller was happy with the interview he had with Murray and the feeling quite likely was mutual. Muller is a people person, the type of communicator that Murray is looking for. He’s also done a good job as an assistant with the Habs for the past five years. Jacques Martin said Muller is ready to become a coach. A lot of hockey people think it’s going to be in Dallas.

3. Kurt Kleinendorst, Binghamton Senators

Seemed like every time the phone rang at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena this season, the B-Sens lineup took a hit. As the Senators dumped salaries at the deadline, they raided his roster relentlessly. Yet Kleinendorst managed to keep the players focused enough to make the playoffs, then hungry enough to emerge from a fifth-place, wild-card team to become AHL champions. “He won and he developed players,” said assistant GM Tim Murray. “He’s a good teacher. He was hard when he had to be. He made adjustments. When you win as a coach, you certainly put yourself in the mix. I’m sure Bryan will have to speak with him again.” That doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a second interview for Kleinendorst, as Murray wasn’t going to talk to him until the playoffs were over. By then, Murray had his list whittled down. Unless Kleinendorst aces the interview, it could be tough for him to slip ahead of the other contenders. While Kleinendorst knows all the players and interacts well with them, it’d be tough for Murray to go to Bingo for a coach again.

2. Craig MacTavish, TSN commentator

There still exists the thinking that Murray wants a guy who has been a coach in the NHL to run his team. If so, MacTavish is the man. He was the bench boss in Edmonton for eight years, ending in 2008-09. He had a winning record in seven of those seasons, but still missed the playoffs five times. He did, however, lead the Oilers to the Stanley Cup final against the Hurricanes in 2005-06, where they lost in Game 7. MacTavish had a long playing career and also has served time as an assistant coach in the NHL. He’d be a good choice.

1. Paul MacLean, Detroit Red Wings

A native of Grostenquin, France, who grew up in Antigonish, N.S., MacLean had 71 points and 125 PIMs in 66 games for the 1977-78 Hull Olympiques. He spent the following season on the Canadian national team, then turned pro with the Blues, who drafted him in the seventh round. After one season in the minors, he played 10 in the NHL, scoring 324 goals and 349 assists in 719 games. One of those campaigns was with the Red Wings, but it was two seasons before Murray came in as coach. MacLean was a coach for nine seasons in the minors, winning almost twice as many games as he lost and capturing the 2000-01 UHL championship with the Quad City Mallards. When Mike Babcock was hired by Murray to coach the Ducks, he hired MacLean as an assistant. MacLean has been with Babcock ever since, from his two years in Anaheim to six with Detroit. Murray’s proudest hiring is Babcock and with good reason. The Wings coach is one of if not the best in the league. There’s no doubt he has given MacLean a ringing endorsement and it’s certain Murray values Babcock’s opinion. As an assistant in the NHL for as long as he’s been, MacLean must be a good communicator. And judging by the success the Wings have had the past six seasons, he’s done a good job coaching them up with Babcock. If Murray liked the way he interviewed, it says here MacLean will soon be moving to Ottawa. He can borrow my truck if he needs it.


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