McKenzie: Paul MacLean a Possible Head Coach Candidate

One of the many, many changes the Leafs made yesterday was relieving Peter Horachek of his head coaching duties while also firing the remaining assistants after another miserable Leafs season.  The team is going to be making even more changes as the off-season progresses, and one of those, of course, will be finding a replacement behind the bench.  There’s been plenty of speculation about who exactly the Leafs next head coach might be, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie threw out one interesting possibility today: former Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean.

Here’s McKenzie’s on the subject:

It will be interesting to see if ex-OTT head coach Paul MacLean emerges as a candidate for TOR bench vacancy. That ? is based on following: After Randy Carlyle was fired, TOR asked OTT for permission to talk to MacLean. There was dialogue but TOR was looking for interim HC and MacLean, with 2+ years left on his contract, wasn’t interested in jumping back in at that time. Now, of course, he’s looking for job.

Lots of interesting stuff here.  First off is the fact that the Leafs were looking at MacLean and perhaps other outside possibilities to at least temporarily replace Randy Carlyle after his firing.  Most people, including myself, just assumed Peter Horachek was the logical in-house temp.  But it’s clear now the team looked at other names as well.

So here’s what we know about Paul MacLean.  For one, he has history with Brendan Shanahan.  The team has already spoken to him once about the possibility of him becoming head coach of the Leafs.  But Shanahan also served as a player under MacLean when he was an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings during Shanahan’s final NHL season.  This could be important as some have suggested in the past Shanahan has a leniency towards those he has familiarity with.  For example, current Leafs assistant GM Brandon Pridham worked at the NHL offices in New York while Shanahan was heading the Player Safety Department (admittedly though, they worked in different areas).

MacLean is a polarizing figure.  He comes from a top notch program in Detroit.  He had lots of success coaching the Ottawa Senators early on and even won a Jack Adams trophy as the league’s top coach during the lockout-shortened season.  But the team faltered in his final season and change, with the team missing the playoffs last year and struggling under MacLean to start this year.  The Senators of course did a complete 180 after MacLean was fired and are now preparing for a playoff series, so that’s a little concerning.

MacLean is also polarizing when it comes to looking at the numbers.  The Senators posted a 52.1% Corsi over MacLean’s full tenure in Ottawa, good for 8th in the league over that time.  MacLean also comes from the Detroit Red Wings organization who have been one of the league’s top possession teams annually.  It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though.  While MacLean’s Senators rank 2nd in the league over his time as their head coach with a 31.6 SF60 (Shots For per 60 Minutes), the team ranked 3rd last at SA60 (Shots Against per 60 Minutes) in that same span posting an identical 31.6.  In other words, MacLean’s teams are typically great at shot generation, but equally bad in shot suppression.  The team’s puck possession numbers also fell to a miserable 47.7% Corsi this season under MacLean.  But all in all MacLean seems to have some talent as far as puck possession is concerned, with potential room for improvement.  That will be tantalizing to the Leafs as they continue to emphasize puck possession acumen moving forward.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens as far as the Leafs bench goes moving forward.  Who will the new head coach be?  How will he want the Leafs to play?  Will it be someone with lots of experience, or a fresh young face?  It promises to be a fascinating off-season, with coaching being just one small piece to the larger puzzle.  And it certainly appears as though Paul MacLean is one piece to keep an eye on.

Oh, before you go, one more interesting fact about Paul MacLean: his son A.J. is an assistant coach.  For what team?  The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of course, the team that Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas once managed.