Happy Jets memories for Senators coach
DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency
|Senators head coach Paul MacLean gives instructions during practice at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., Nov., 8, 2011. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - For at least a few moments, the night after a rough day on the NHL coaching fraternity will be a good one for Paul MacLean.
Of anybody to stand behind a visitors bench this season, he should get the loudest ovation.
In Winnipeg, the Senators coach has returned to his old stomping grounds, his home for seven years in the 1980s. MacLean played 527 of his NHL games for the Jets. During that time he had 518 points, of which 248 were goals.
He was a star.
“The fans here treated me real good,” MacLean said Monday, before mentioning a familiar face from a wall on the old Winnipeg Arena days that didn’t make it to the new MTS Centre. “The only thing for me is that I miss the Queen.”
The knowledgeable legions didn’t always applaud MacLean, he pointed out.
“I got my share of boos,” he said. “I got cheered lots, too. I had no complaints at all. I figure I got what I deserved. Seven years I played here, I thought it was real fair.”
Why did they give it to MacLean, who three times scored 40 goals for the Jets?
“What do they usually boo you for?” he said. “You’re not playing real well.
“I thought the fans were always honest with me. Told me the way it was. I had a good time. It was a good stop.”
Asked his best memory as a Jet, MacLean didn’t hesitate.
“Beating Calgary in the first round of the playoffs, I believe it was in ‘85,” he said. “To win the first playoff series and the only one that I ever won in the league, so that was real good. Had a lot of other nights when I scored some goals or I had 100 points or played in an all-star game, but to actually have success in the playoffs was the biggest thing for me.”
MacLean, who still has plenty of friends and his wife’s family in Winnipeg, had a tough decision to make Monday night.
“It’s a hard toss up for me, Rae and Jerrys or Hys,” he said with a laugh, when asked of his dinner plans.
On the hockey front, he’s electing to go with Craig Anderson in goal, despite the fact Alex Auld played four seasons here with the Manitoba Moose.
It’s a big one for the Senators, as they try to climb two games over .500 and back into a Top 8 spot while winning for a coach they respect, admire and genuinely like.
And they’ll be doing so just 200 km down the road from where there old coach — Brandon Wheat Kings bench boss Cory Clouston — now works. MacLean was reminded of the reality of his job when two coaches — Bruce Boudreau in Washington and Paul Maurice in Carolina — were fired Monday.
Not that he needed it.
“I remind myself of that every day,” he said. ”That I’m pretty fortunate to have the job that I have. All it does is motivate me to come and keep working hard at my job.”
Does he think he’s getting better?
“I don’t assess myself that way, but we feel our team is doing better,” he said. “We’re working as a group and we feel real good.”