MacLean a happy man at the draft

Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean was all smiles on the draft floor Sunday.

MacLean a happy man at the draft
Paul MacLean

NEW JERSEY – Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean was all smiles on the draft floor Sunday.

And why not? MacLean now knows captain Daniel Alflredsson will be back to lead the Senators into the 2014-15 season and he’s confident that his long-term future behind in the bench is secure.

At this point, MacLean isn’t overly concerned about getting a new deal done immediately – he’s under contract for the 2013-14 season – acknowledging that “we have other priorities right now.”

However, he can’t help but notice that Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers and Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes have secured five-year contracts. As the reigning Jack Adams Trophy winner, MacLean couldn’t be in a better bargaining position once talks with general manager Bryan Murray get more serious.

As for Alfredsson’s return, MacLean says it’s difficult to explain all the intangibles he brings to the team, but he suggests that the club’s ability to survive and even thrive without five regulars for extended periods last season was due to the presence of Alfredsson and fellow leaders Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar and Chris Neil.

While MacLean is largely an outsider to the draft day proceedings – he arrived in New York on Thursday and took a keen interest in the scouts’ sometimes heated discussions on Friday and Saturday – he has a deep respect for the work they put in.

As a ready example, he says the importance of drafting quality players showed up throughout the 2013 season, when the club was forced to reach down to Binghamton of the American Hockey League for replacements again and again due to injuries.

Mika Zibanejad, the Senators sixth overall selection in 2011, established himself as an NHL player following Jason Spezza’s injury. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, selected 96th overall in 2011, was a surprise hero late in the regular season and in the playoffs. Defensively, Patrick Wiercioch (42nd overall in 2008) and Eric Gryba (68th overall in 2006) proved they can be everyday NHL defencemen.

If MacLean has any regrets, one month after the Senators elimination from the playoffs, it’s that they they paid “too much respect” to the Penguins, ultimately losing the Eastern Conference semifinal in five games.

 kwarren@ottawacitizen.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

 

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