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Puck Daddy chats with John MacLean about being fired by Devils, LA Kings’ domination and future of Carolina Hurricanes

Greg Wyshynski
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Molson Canadian is running an auction through 5 p.m. on Tuesday in which the winning bidder can watch Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at a Los Angeles bar with either Wayne Gretzky or John MacLean. It's really the difference between banter like, "Hey Wayne, what was it like to win all those Cups and score all those playoff goals and be Wayne Gretzky?" vs. "Hey, remember when you scratched Kovalchuk for being late to that meeting?"

(For the record, watching a Stanley Cup Final game with Wayne Gretzky would be like watching a Mafia movie marathon with Martin Scorsese, albeit with a slightly lower words-per-second ratio.)

That said, it would be an enlightening and somewhat surreal experience to watch Wednesday night's potential series-clincher with MacLean, who is currently an assistant coach under Kirk Muller with the Carolina Hurricanes.

He's a legendary New Jersey Devils player who later became a rather infamous head coach in 2011, going 9-22-2 before being replaced by Jacques Lemaire. This collection of players was essentially MacLean's team — how does he feel about them excelling now?

We spoke with MacLean about that, the Los Angeles Kings' dominance, Martin Brodeur's playoff run, Jeff Skinner and where the Hurricanes are headed next season.

All of the proceeds of the auction will benefit the National Hockey League Foundation, and you can check out www.molsoncanadianauction.com to bid through Tuesday, June 5th at 5:30 p.m. ET. Winners outside the Los Angeles area will have airfare and accommodations paid for, but please note that this isn't an auction for Game 4 tickets — rather, you'll be in a VIP room at an LA bar with MacLean or Gretzky.

Enjoy.

Q. Do you see echoes of the 1995 Devils Cup championship team with the Kings' 2012 team? Winning two on the road, the Doughty goal vs. the Niedermayer goal, the 10 road wins.

MACLEAN: Somebody just texted me that, too. That it looks like the reverse a bit of 1995.

LA isn't surprising hockey people. They're a deep four-line club with six defensemen and great goaltending. They have a really, really strong hockey club. You could draw some comparisons with the '95 team.

Where would you be watching the Cup Final if not in a bar with an auction winner? When you're not playing or coaching, where do you prefer to watch the game?

I'd probably be at home with my boys. They love to watch hockey all the time.

I think my guys are liking [the Final]. They're not a fan of teams, but more of players. Strange as it may sound [laughs] two of their favorite players are Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar. It's just bizarre they're in the Final against the Devils.

Is it going to be awkward being the de facto "Devils guy" for Game 4 in the auction, watching the end of a sweep?

You gotta look at the big picture of what the Devils have accomplished this year. And we're talking like they're not going to win: Both teams now are in the same situation. LA's trying to win one game, and that's all that Jersey's trying to do, too. That's mindset both teams have right now. It's going to be up to the players in each locker room to psych their minds.

You're the reason the Devils made the playoffs for the first time in 1988, with that goal against Chicago. Where's the puck from that game?

No idea.

You don't have the puck?! Did a linesman named Steve Miller take it?

[Laughs] No, today it's all about 'oh, I got the puck, I got this' from a game. I tease all the time: 'Where's my first puck goal? It's probably in my backyard being shot off a fence by one of my boys.'

I don't remember getting a puck back in 1988. We probably never thought anything of it. It's hindsight: You don't think anything about it until 30 years later.

Marty Brodeur's been a hell of a story for the Devils in this run. Having played with him and coached him, did you honestly believe he had something left this left in the tank? Why?

You never disregard anything that Marty does, or the ability that he has. He's such a tremendous athlete, competitor, and rises to the occasion when given the opportunity. For the most part, he's held up his end of the bargain here, playing extremely well. But sometimes you run into a guy who's playing just as well.

I don't know what Marty's plans are, but if he wants to continue playing, he's still a top-notch goalie in this League.

What's been the difference in this Final for you?

You have to look at Quick as one of the differences, but then you'd be discrediting the talent and the size and the system they've been playing. They've been playing really well in front of him. They seem to weather any storm fired at them. LA has a sound hockey team. We talk about Kopitar, but they have Richards and Stoll … you go down their four lines, they're a pretty good team.

But Quick's going to get most of the notoriety for it.

How do you feel about this Devils team, given what happened during your tenure as head coach? Do you look at a guy like Kovalchuk and wonder, "Why couldn't he be that for me?"

Yeah, you know, "should-uhs" and could-uhs."

There are a few players there that are [now] in different circumstances. This team has different personnel in different situations. I don't look back at it like that. Pete's done a nice job with them, and Larry [Robinson] has done as a nice job with them.

Lou Lamoriello told ESPN in May that "I take full responsibility [about last season] because you can't have the players we have and the summer we had and put that in the hands of a young coach." Do you feel it just wasn't the right roster for your NHL head coaching debut?

[Laughs] I always appreciate Lou and his words. But I've been in the game a long time. It's been good to me. I'm back in the game in Carolina, and I'm excited about that. It happens. It happened to me. You move on. There's been more good than bad throughout my career. You try and stay looking forward than looking back.

The Hurricanes went 25-20-12 under Kirk Muller and showed some flashes of good things. Where will the emphasis be this offseason for the coaching staff?

Kirk did a great job coming in there. He's pretty progressive. He coaches like he played: He's a leader.

For us, we have some good pieces in place. The right pieces in place. Now it's about surrounding it with the depth. LA's got great depth and Jersey's got depth. That's how you have a winning team.

How good is Jeff Skinner?

He's an unbelievable talent. He does things that make Kirk and I look at each other on the bench and go, 'Really?!' He's a highly talented player that is going to do some special things in this league.

Finally, will it upset you at all if Wayne Gretzky's auction finishes higher than yours?

[Laughs] I would be shocked if it didn't!

Visit the Molson Canadian Auction and bid before it's too late!

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