He got all the glory for the Ottawa Senators overcoming injuries to make the playoffs last season. So, the trials and tribulations this season rest on his shoulders as well. The team has more talent, on the ice now than it did for most of last year, and MacLean simply hasn’t managed it properly.
It is easy to be critical when things aren’t going right, but there are a lot of things that seem plainly obvious to me that are pretty simple that the reigning Jack Adams Award winner hasn’t seemed to notice, or for whatever reason has ignored.
First off, the constant line juggling and trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The Senators have 4 legitimate top 6 forwards (Kyle Turris, Jason Spezza, Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan). Probably not enough, but it is what it is and you have to make do with what the budget provides. So, in those cases, you need to split them up 2 and 2 to form your top 2 lines. Next, the Senators have 2 fringe top 6 forwards, one who is working on getting to that level consistently in Mika Zibanejad, and one who can be that on certain nights but injuries have slowed his production in Milan Michalek.
So you slot those two in on the wings on the first two lines and hope on any given night one or the other produces. Turris and MacArthur have been like Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in their chemistry, so you keep them together and slot in Zibanejad on their wing. Spezza and Michalek have played well together in the past, and although it hasn’t worked in short attempts, you have to put Ryan, a pure finisher, with Spezza, a great distributor. Keep them together and something will develop, because they are that talented.
No matter how much you want to make Colin Greening a top 6 forward to justify his ridiculous contract, he doesn’t fit in that role on an everyday basis. Let the scorers score, the grinders grind and let the chips fall where they may.
I have been on the record more than once this season about my frustration with the way MacLean has handled the goaltenders this season right from game 2.
On the blue line, the constant mix and match game simply isn’t working. You can only have so many slow-footed defensemen on the ice at any one time, and that means 1. Pairing Jared Cowen with Eric Gryba as they did last night against the Red Wings is a recipe for disaster. Both have potential and abilities, but if neither can really skate well, a team like Detroit who does, and moves the puck well is going to eat them alive. Cowen has had his struggles this season, and being paired with Erik Karlsson might not be the greatest pairing of all time, but Cowen-Karlsson and Marc Methot-Gryba is better than Methot-Karlsson and Cowen-Gryba in that type of situation.
And they have 2 very mobile defensemen sitting in the press box watching the game in Joe Corvo and the perennial doghouse occupant Patrick Wiercioch. Against a team like Detroit, mobility outweighs physicality and MacLean’s resistance to see that is aggravating.
Not having the team prepared to take the ice after a 3 week break, along with the inexplicable inability to get going in afternoon games this season are two more knocks against the style MacLean has taken behind the bench this season.
Whether it is an increased ego stemming from the Jack Adams award or from the success he had in the Montreal playoff series last spring, there is something different about the way MacLean is approaching the game and the team, and if he doesn’t get back to basics then this season is going to end earlier than anyone wants.