In unforgiving NHL, MacLean goes from coach of the year to canned in a year

Gregg Patton writes about the downfall, perhaps prematurely, of a coach who was named the league's best just two seasons ago.

Paul MacLean had coached the Ottawa Senators since the 2011/12 season before being fired. Sean Kilpatrick / AP / Canadian Press
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Paul MacLean became the first NHL coach to be fired this season when the Ottawa Senators gave him the bad news this week.

No doubt his Jack Adams Award for being the coach of the year in 2013 will be mentioned by his next employer, wherever he ends up. It looks nice on a CV, but it doesn’t do much for job security.

Bruce Boudreau (Washington Capitals, 2008) and Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh Penguins, 2011), other recent coach-of-the-year winners, were asked to leave before they became local legends, as well.

MacLean’s team was not terrible. The Senators were 11-11-5, just outside a play-offs spot. Some cited as his downfall an attacking style that allowed more shots than it generated.

Of course, it was that same system that lifted Ottawa to overachieving status two years ago, back when the team had talented scorers like Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza to make it work.

But the Senators tend not to retain their best players because they maintain the lowest payroll in the league, a stingy US$56 million (Dh205.7m), nearly $13m under the salary cap.

MacLean didn’t help his cause when he recently answered a question by noting he was “scared to death no matter who we’re playing”, followed by the joke, “Sometimes I’m scared of who I’m playing.”

Anyway, Ottawa’s next coach might light a spark for a while and win a coach-of-the-year award, too. But he probably should not bolt it on to his office wall.

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