MacLean’s choice for Norris? Karlsson, no question

Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean just spent a relaxing two weeks at his cottage in Nova Scotia, where he fished for lobster, ate what he caught and, with son A.J., cheered for Spain in Euro 2012. Life is good. Now even more fun is on the way with a trip to Las Vegas for next week’s NHL awards.

Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean just spent a relaxing two weeks at his cottage in Nova Scotia, where he fished for lobster, ate what he caught and, with son A.J., cheered for Spain in Euro 2012.

Life is good.

Now even more fun is on the way with a trip to Las Vegas for next week’s NHL awards.

MacLean, up for the Jack Adams award as the league’s top coach, will be one of three Ottawa finalists.

Erik Karlsson will be at his table as a nominee for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman, and Daniel Alfredsson will be there as a nominee for the Masterton Trophy, given for dedication to the game.

MacLean said he is flattered to be in the same group with fellow nominees John Tortorella of the New York Rangers and Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues, both veteran coaches.

“It’s a great compliment to me, but also to the organization,” said MacLean.

“We have three people up for individual awards, and what that tells you is that the team played well and consistently this year.

“It’s a great testament to the team’s work ethic and dedication.”

MacLean wouldn’t handicap his chances, beyond saying “I’m there, so I have a chance.”

But he wasn’t shy about saying that Karlsson would win the Norris.

And that’s not just a politically correct choice. Karlsson deserves it, said MacLean.

Karlsson may not be a bruiser like his fellow nominees, Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Nashville’s Shea Weber.

But even while playing against the opposition’s top lines night after night, Karlsson finished at plus-16 and scored 19 goals and 59 assists making him the top scorer among defencemen by 25 points (Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien was second with 53 points).

That, MacLean said, has to count for something.

The way the game is played today, teams need a fourth person — one of their defenceman — to join the attack, and Karlsson is the prototypical modern offensive defenceman, a fabulous skater who can move the puck and join the rush.

“Will he win? I don’t know. Should he win? I believe he has done enough to do it.”

The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association picks the Norris and Masterton winners. NHL broadcasters are responsible for selecting the Jack Adams winner.

While MacLean said he had no real disappointments in his first year as a head coach, it is clear that he is still more than a little rankled about losing to the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

In particular, he can’t let go of Game 6, when the Senators, up 3-2 in the series, had a 1-0 lead and twice had power-play chances to extend it.

Twice, however, they took penalties to negate their chances, and twice the Rangers scored on their way to a 3-2 victory.

That, to MacLean, cost the Senators the series. The Rangers won Game 7.

“That was an opportunity for us and we let it slip away,” said MacLean.

The week after the draft, the Senators will have their annual development camp, and MacLean is anxious to see the young players who will be vying for lineup spots next year.

He said the Senators remain a team of opportunity for young players, but everyone, veterans included, will have to understand how much harder it will be next year.

The team that had no expectations when last season started will have elevated expectations next season. Unlike the team that was able to surprise some of its opponents last year, the Senators won’t be able to sneak up on anyone.

If the Senators aren’t ready, said MacLean, they’ll get left behind in a hurry.

MacLean hasn’t talked to Daniel Alfredsson, so he doesn’t know whether the 39-year-old will retire or return for another season.

But if the captain doesn’t, MacLean said he’ll feel the same as he did when Red Wing defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, whom MacLean coached as an assistant in Detroit, announced his retirement.

“I was happy and sad at the same time,” said MacLean.

“Anytime you lose a great player like Nicklas Lidstrom, it’s sad for the game, but I was happy for him.

“If (Alfredsson) retires, I think it will be a lot like Lidstrom. I’ll be happy and sad at the same time.”

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