It was just a few years ago that the Ottawa Senators felt like the next up and coming team in the East. The cupboards seemed stocked with young talent, the team had just hired a no-nonsense leader in Paul MacLean and wouldn’t you know it, the Senators found themselves in playoffs in both 2012 and 2013.
It’s the contrast between those expectations and their current reality that cost Paul MacLean his job.
The Sens missed playoffs by five points last year, which made management none too happy, and currently sit in seventh in the Atlantic, which is more problematic than the mere four points they sit outside this season’s playoff cut.
"Their current reality" also includes being a defensive nightmare. A coach can’t do a whole lot for a team offensively, but he sure can help limit shots with his systems and player deployment, which means "allowing less shots than only the Sabres" reflects pretty poorly on MacLean. There’s also the red flag that Erik Karlsson is an unbelievable talent who, for whatever reason, could rarely be talked into giving a legitimate defensive effort.
When you fire a coach, you have to think two things: One, what he’s doing isn’t working with the current group, and two, that you can replace your current leader with someone better.
The Senators seemed to have the first box checked as early as last summer, which makes this seemingly sudden move feel like a team trying to get to the crop of available coaches before other teams start pulling the trigger of mid-season desperation.
Whether that means they take a swing at Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher or any other of the other coaches available now, or hand the reins to an assistant Dave Cameron and wait to see who’s coming available in the coming months (Dallas Eakins? Todd McLellan?), they seem to believe they can find an upgrade.
Paul MacLean is a well-liked guy and a pretty darn good coach, but when you start as well as he did with the club and end up here, it’s not tough to understand why the Senators felt the need to start fresh.