Paul MacLean has been fired by the Ottawa Senators after four seasons, two of which were playoff years and two of which were frustrating messes thanks to jettisoned talent, average goaltending and penny pinching ownership.
So if it sounds like we’re saying “don’t blame Paul MacLean for the Ottawa Senators’ problems,” that’s because that’s what we’re saying.
It was inevitable that MacLean would pay for the Sens’ diminishing returns with his job, so the firing doesn’t come as a shock outside of the timing, with the Senators coming off an overtime win on Sunday. He had a record of 114-90-35 and a 8-9 record in the postseason, having won a round in 2013 and then winning the Jack Adams that June.
Since that playoff appearance, the Senators had a bitter split with their captain, Daniel Alfredsson, and traded their No. 1 center Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars. They acquired winger Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks and inked him to a long-term deal, but the financial commitment to the rest of the roster has been pathetic: The Senators rank No. 30 in the NHL in payroll.
But again, that’s obviously on the coach, right?
The Senators, however, were off to a middling start. They’re 10th in the East at 11-11-5 (27 points), which is four points off the pace for the wild card. Their offense has produced 70 goals, but they’re surrendered 74. Prior to the win over Vancouver, the Sens had lost five straight.
MacLean isn’t infallible. The manic scrambling of lines to try and find a solution for the lineup wasn’t healthy. And then there’s been a creeping sense that his previous success was unsustainable, as The 6th Sens noted:
For years Paul MacLean’s high-event hockey coaching style has been moderately successful because the team has been winning the possession battle and also because its goaltenders have helped cover their ass. Unlike any other year however, the Senators have not been winning the possession battle and now that their goaltenders’ numbers are normalizing, the results are now starting to align with the team’s performance on the ice.
In the “coaching vs. construction” debate over a team’s lack of success, this is about construction. This isn’t to say Bryan Murray has done a poor job, but it’s like asking an accomplished chef to create a four-star meal with some quarters for the vending machine. And as anyone that’s seen that Quickfire Challenge on “Top Chef” knows, that ain’t easy.
MacLean said as much recently (and infamously) when he said he was “scared to death no matter who we’re playing” and “sometimes, I’m scared to death of who I’m playing.”
Maybe gallows humor doesn’t play well with Eugene Melnyk.
We’ll miss that humor. MacLean brought a personality to a team that has lacked it through the years, to the point where opposing players were calling him a “bug-eyed fat walrus.” He was jovial and brought a different energy to the franchise thanks to his time with the Detroit Red Wings.
He won’t be out of work long.
But wither the Paul MacLean doppelganger? Will he finally shave?