OTTAWA -- Paul MacLean waited a long time for the chance to coach an NHL team. The Ottawa Senators have to be glad they gave the 54-year-old his opportunity.
MacLean certainly is.
"I'm proud of the fact that I got to be a head coach in the National Hockey League and with the Senators," MacLean said Saturday, less than 48 hours after his team's season ended with a loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series. "I think we're really pleased with how it went over the course of the season."
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However, MacLean gave the lion's share of the credit to his team's veteran core.
"The players are the ones who have done it – the leadership of players like Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips and Jason Spezza … they deserve a lot more credit than I do for the season that the team has had," he said. "I feel good about the fact that I can coach in the League and that we had satisfaction, so I guess I can give myself some credibility to say that I can do this, but now the hard part is to do it again."
MacLean spent nine seasons as an assistant under Mike Babcock in Anaheim and Detroit, earning a Stanley Cup ring with the Wings in 2008. GM Bryan Murray hired him last summer to replace Cory Clouston after the Senators finished 13th in the East, and MacLean led Ottawa back to the playoffs.
While MacLean was pleased with the team's performance in his first season, he has no trouble pinpointing the lowest point of the year -- Monday night. "I thought the real opportunity to win Game 6 against the New York Rangers, up 1-0 with two power plays in the second period and wasted an opportunity to make it 2-0 was the biggest disappointment of the season for myself," MacLean said of the 3-2 home loss on a night when a win would have moved the team into the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Under MacLean, the Senators were one of the NHL's most offensive-minded teams. He said his lack of offense made the difference in the series against the Rangers.
"I firmly believe that you have to score your way to the Stanley Cup, not defend your way there," MacLean said. "We didn't score enough in the playoffs. In the regular season we had some goal scoring by committee, and in postseason we didn't get the scoring from our back end that we had. I thought we generated enough scoring opportunities; we just didn't score enough goals. And I guess we have to give the Rangers' goalie some credit for that."
As for Alfredsson, who is deciding whether to play another season, MacLean said he respects whatever decision his 39-year-old captain makes.
"All I told [Alfredsson] was that he's a [really] good player and he can play as long as he wants," MacLean said. "Whenever he decides that he's had enough, I'll be one of the first guys to stand up and clap."