MacLean questions Senators leadership following post-loss meeting

Senators coach Paul MacLean didn’t mince words.

MacLean questions Senators leadership following post-loss meeting
Head Coach Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators during morning practice at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, December 13 2013. Photo by Jean Levac/Ottawa Citizen

NEWARK, New Jersey – Senators coach Paul MacLean didn’t mince words.

Moments after both and general manager Bryan Murray addressed the team in a bitter post-game meeting following Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, MacLean went public with his disappointment at his team.

“There’s a lack of focus, there’s a lack of leadership, there’s a lack of preparation, just a lack of wanting to play in the National Hockey League and be a team that is willing to do what it takes to be elite,” MacLean said. “We’re a long, long way from being an elite team in the league.”

MacLean says the Senators are currently closer to the bottom than the top of the league and if they don’t shape up, the only race they’ll be involved in is the “race for the first overall pick.”

(That, of course, can’t happen, considering the Senators traded their first round pick to the Anaheim Ducks in the Bobby Ryan swap, but we can excuse MacLean’s temporary oversight, given his bitterness about the team he’s coaching).

“It’s one thing if we don’t make it to the race for the playoffs, but if we don’t even try, that’s totally unacceptable and has to stop.”

MacLean went on and on about a season where “our competition level has been average at best.”

As for Wednesday’s performance against the Devils, he said, “I thought our competition level was zero.”

The Senators coach didn’t like the officiating that led to a couple of questionable goals, but his displeasure at the men in stripes couldn’t deflect from his overall opinion of his own team.

“We need a little bit of something called anger because we shouldn’t be impressed with how we played the game,” he said. “For the most part, our effort was not even close enough to win and we can’t be begging the referees and the league to say they’re doing us wrong. We’re doing us wrong. We have to find a way.”

If the Senators went into Wednesday’s game believing they were on the brink of turning a positive corner, now they’re back trying to save the season from spiralling away again.

Consistency is a foreign concept for this squad.

“I don’t think we play together enough,” said captain Jason Spezza. “I don’t think we help each other out enough to support the puck. At times, we’re a tad slow on the forecheck, allowing teams to break out too easily and we don’t move the puck quick enough and we don’t support our goalies enough.”

Oh, is that all? Of course, it’s one thing to say it and another to follow through with it, and we’ve heard all of this before. This, remember, is a team that hasn’t won consecutive games in six weeks.

Goaltender Robin Lehner wasn’t pulling any punches after a game where he was left alone to defend for himself far too often.

“It started with (an early) goal against and they kept up playing,” he said. “They outplayed us in every aspect of hockey in that game. They were harder. They were more physical. They did less mistakes. We made them look really good in our zone. They got a lot of chances. I felt like I was flying everywhere because there was always something dangerous in close.”

Assistant captain Chris Phillips fully agreed with Lehner.

“We can’t be playing the game like it’s a road hockey game where we’re just going to exchange chances every night,” he said. “We have to buckle down in our zone. If we give up shots, they have to be from the outside, so the goalie has a chance. We just have to be harder to play against.”

Rest assured, Murray and MacLean made all of that perfectly clear in the post-game meeting. At first blush, it didn’t appear like the paint was stripped from the walls, but Phillips acknowledged voices were raised and the conversation was “not friendly.”

Phillips says the team has to grasp the urgency.

“For the most part, it was a message from the top about what the expectations are from them and what we should be expecting from each other. It was a good message.”

Now, how do they answer that message?

 BY THE NUMBERS

26:24: Erik Karlsson ice time

Minus 3: Chris Neil, Zack Smith plus/minus

Plus 3: Eric Gelinas plus/minus

25:54: Andy Greene ice time

0: Bobby Ryan shots on goal

23-25: Martin Brodeur saves-shots

28-33: Robin Lehner saves-shots

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