MacLean: No underestimating Senators this time

Senators head coach Paul MacLean. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/AFP file photo)

Senators head coach Paul MacLean. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/AFP file photo)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:22 AM ET

OTTAWA - When he hasn't been sitting in front of the TV with his son A.J. cheering for Spain at Euro 2012, Paul MacLean often could be found fishing for and eating lobsters at his cottage in Nova Scotia the past two weeks.

The Senators coach will be back to his own sport next week in Las Vegas. With his family and other members of the Senators organization supporting him, MacLean will be busy talking about what it's like to be nominated for the Jack Adams Award as a first-year NHL head coach and what his team is going to do for an encore.

"I think I'm there, so I have an opportunity," MacLean said Friday when asked about his chances of getting the nod over fellow nominees Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and John Tortorella of the New York Rangers when the hardware is handed out at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas.

"I think part of the credit goes to my coaching staff (first-year NHL assistants Dave Cameron and Mark Reeds) and our players. I think what it's done for us is establish ourselves in the NHL, that we're a good coaching staff, a bona fide coaching staff. And if we win the trophy, I think we're all going to have a good time with it."

Under MacLean, the Senators proved skeptics wrong by not only finishing out of the Eastern Conference basement, but grabbing the eighth and final playoff spot. The fact that the eventual Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings finished eighth in the West did not escape his attention.

It also will be something he reminds his players when he sees the entire group again in September.

"I think it's the hardest thing to do now, just to make the playoffs," said MacLean. "Once you're in there, anything can happen. It's real important and it's real difficult just to make the playoffs. That has to be something you're thinking about, not only the first day of training camp, but you've got to be thinking about it now.

"You have to make sure you're ready to go and get off to a good start because it's the hardest thing to do right now in the NHL -- just to make the playoffs."

While the Senators will be trying to get back to the post-season and improve on their 41-31-10 mark in 2011-12, MacLean won't mention specific goals other than to "grow as a team and get better every day." He does realize opponents won't be underrating the Senators this season.

"I think the difficult part for us is now we have expectations and we didn't have them (this past) year," said MacLean. "Our expectations starting out were 15th. Anything above that was obviously an upgrade. Now, the expectations of our group and our team have changed. I think that's real healthy, I think that's real good. And that's what we wanted, to raise the expectations.

"Now its up to us to do the work this summer, getting in the gym to make sure we're ready to respond to what's coming up. We're not sneaking up on anybody. I think everybody in the league is really going to be serious about the games starting the season. If you're not ready you'll get left behind in a hurry.

"Let's play our 82 games and see where we end up. I don't think we can guarantee anything, or say we're going to be this or we're going to be that. Our expectation is to be successful. And right now successful is defined by making the playoffs, but I don't think it's fair to say 'yeah, that's what we're going to do.' "

In the meantime, MacLean will go from watching the tube to being watched -- along with Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson (Norris Trophy nominee) and captain Daniel Alfredsson (Bill Masterson Trophy nominee) -- at the awards ceremony Wednesday night.

He intends on looking good.

"I don't have a tuxedo," MacLean said with a chuckle, "but I have a nice dark suit."

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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