Three days after making a head coaching change, the Carolina Hurricanes have made another personnel change behind the bench.
John MacLean was named an assistant coach, joining new head coach Kirk Muller and assistant coaches Rod Brind’Amour, Dave Lewis and Tom Barrasso.
The 47-year-old MacLean spent nine seasons as a coach in the New Jersey Devils organization. From 2002-09, MacLean was an assistant coach for the Devils. In July of 2009, he was named head coach of the Lowell Devils of the American Hockey League. In the 2009-10 season, he led Lowell to its best-ever record (39-31-10) and first-ever playoff berth. In the summer of 2010, he became head coach of the New Jersey Devils before being relieved of coaching duties 33 games into the season.
It is evident that MacLean has a wealth of coaching experience, which should be a boon to the coaching staff as a whole. It also signals another attempt to bring in new ideas from someone outside of the organization.
“I’m really excited. We’ve been longtime friends, teammates,” Muller said. “I wanted to come in first, see what’s going on here and see what the options are, and when I had the opportunity to add John, it was great.”
The addition to the coaching staff was announced right before nine o’clock this morning, and MacLean was on the ice for the morning skate at 10:30 a.m. He stepped onto the ice, fitted his new Hurricanes hat and got down to business. He chatted with Sutter and LaRose, getting smiles out of them both, before the team broke into drills.
“I’m excited to be a part of it and help Kirk in support and help turn this thing around,” MacLean said. “It’s a right fit for myself and for him.”
Over the years, Muller and MacLean have had a close relationship, playing together in New Jersey and Dallas. They also both got into coaching gigs after their playing days were over and stayed in touch.
When MacLean was let go by the Devils last year, he was uncertain about his coaching future. But landing on his feet in Raleigh with an old buddy was an easy choice to make.
“This is a great place to be and a great opportunity,” MacLean said. “You take what you learn and apply it to the next situation you’re in. Hockey is what I know. I’m passionate about it, and I’m excited to be here to help Carolina win.”
MacLean will be behind the bench for the Hurricanes beginning tonight. Muller has tasked him with instructing the penalty kill and working individually with forwards.
“John has been in New Jersey, and they’ve been a great defensive team, and I think we have to be better defensively here,” Muller said. “He’s going to grab forwards individually and work with them. He was a great two-way winger. I think we’ve got some young guys here that could benefit from board work, little details of the game that I think are going to be really important.”
Though MacLean isn’t completely familiar with the penalty killing schemes of the Canes just yet, he does have a few ideas – minor tweaks, as the base for success is already present, he said.
“We’re going to jump right into it and hopefully get that up a couple percentage points,” he said. “Not major changes, just maybe a little different thought to it and understanding position a little bit more.
“I think the personnel is fine,” he said. “I think one thing this team has is speed, and that’s helpful in killing penalties.”
The Canes’ penalty kill has allowed five goals over its last 18 situations. Tuesday night against Florida, Carolina gave up the first goal of the game to the Panthers just 13 seconds into their power play.
But, just like with Muller at the helm, the penalty kill isn’t going to be perfect in one game. Adding MacLean, however, is an important step in changing the direction of the team in an effort to steer it toward playoff position.
“There’s some great speed and a lot of talented players here. You have some All-Stars at each position, so there’s a lot to work with,” MacLean said. “With Kirk’s energy and knowledge of the game and helping out with out the rest of the staff, I think we’ll be in good shape.”