The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
Paul MacLean Speaks On Season Eve

Senators head coach Paul MacLean joined Team 1200's The Drive on the eve of the 2013 season that kicks off tomorrow in Winnipeg. The 'Stache hits on a number of important notes, including the power play personnel, naming Craig Anderson as his starting goaltender and his comfort level with the state of the defence corps. 

Please note MacLean touched on a few things that I did not bother to include in this post, so if you wish to listen to the full interview, you can do so here, or via streaming the embedded audio below.

As always, my thoughts will be in bold.

On trying to instill a sense of urgency in  his players and Winnipeg being a good place to start because of its atmosphere…

“And it’s going to be exciting too at the same time. I know last year, there was a lot of excitement and a lot of noise. I think that’s going to be real good for our players too. They’re looking forward to it. We talked about it a lot today, the energy of the crowd, even as the visitor, you can feed off of that energy. I think the most important thing for us is to come out and have short shifts early and try and get momentum on our side.”

Of course, playing the Jets in the first game of  the season will hopefully make it that much easier to get momentum on Ottawa's side. 

On trying to create some urgency with the club without having exhibition games…

“Well, I’m just trying to be myself mostly. I think there are different times I think to be intense and to be urgent but I think that having fun is also a big part of this game and a big part of our group as a whole. But ultimately, winning is fun and that’s what it’s all about. We just want to make sure that we’re touching on all the right things.  It’s a short  camp – you’re trying to touch on everything knowing that you can’t touch on everything totally like you would in a regular training camp. But, we tried to focus on the things that make us the Ottawa Senators and really work on those things.”

On some level, I think it'd be hilarious if the Senators players lost their identities over the course of the lockout. Who wouldn't want to see Erik Condra try to showcase that deft German Div II scoring touch that he discovered overseas? I'm expecting dazzling end-to-end rushes.

On developing an identity for this hockey club…

“My thoughts on our identity are that we are a hardworking team that plays with speed. We play 200 feet and we attack the net. We want to hang onto pucks and we want to attack the net and be an attacking team and play with a ton of speed but play for the whole game.”

Bryan Murray must have missed the "play with a ton of speed" notice when he inked Guillaume. (Hat tip to Hfboards user 'Quo' for finding the gem below.) 

On who is starting on Saturday and the decision not to name Craig Anderson as the starter right away…

“For me, we had to see where (Anderson) was. The ultimate thing is what is best for the team and not for an individual; especially in a shortened season, you have to wait and see. I was asked the first day of training camp who was going to play goal I think a little bit early, but here we are faced with the game starting tomorrow and Craig Anderson is going to be the goaltender. He’s come through this week in camp. He’s worked real hard and he’s ready to go. He’s the number one goaltender, so he’s going to be the one in net.”

And if he struggles, this just opens the door for the inevitable Senators goaltending controversy that the traditional media-types can't wait to push. Looking forward to it. 

On expectations for Silfverberg…

“One thing about Jakob, he’s a very consistent player. Coming here, to be the best player in Sweden, you have to be a good player, so he’s a consistent player there. He’s a little bit older than most rookies, so coming here, the lockout helped him by going to Binghamton and being able to get adjusted to the small rink. And Binghamton’s rink is even smaller than most NHL rinks, so he’s got that adjustment out of the way. We feel that he’s going to able to come in and contribute. Our expectations for him are to just be himself, get himself comfortable, get playing in the league and we feel with the guys that he’s with, he’s going to contribute for us offensively. But we’re not depending on him to have to come in and do everything for us. We have a pretty good veteran group with Jason, Alfie and Milan that are expected to lead that thing offensively, so we just want him to come in and contribute and continue to work hard.”

For a guy who we're worried about getting comfortable, it is taking a ridiculous amount of time and energy to figure out just how the player wants the fans and media to pronounce his first name. The latest incarnation is Jack-ob. I believe that's the fourth variation that we've heard since he's come to North America. Won't be long before he's Jake Silver.

On the state of the blue line…

“Well, we feel good about the group of seven actually. But I think Methot and Erik have really developed a good chemistry, which we felt that they would and that’s really given us a lot of comfort knowing that we’ll be able to get them out on the ice. As far as Sergei (Gonchar) goes, I think we’re going to see that Chris Phillips can play there, we can play Patrick Wiercioch there, or Borowiecki there at the same time along with (Andre) Benoit.  There’s a great comfort between Patrick Wiercioch and Benoit coming from Binghamton, they were a pair down there. And Boro has played with Benoit in the past too. So I think the combination in that second and third pair might be a little bit different, but I think the fact that they all know one another and a lot of them have played together in the past (defence) shouldn’t be a big issue for us. We feel good about it.”

As I tweeted out earlier today, Gonchar actually had better on the surface numbers while playing with Chris Phillips last season at even strength than Jared Cowen. For the unawares, GF refers to Goals For, GA refers Goals Against. The /20 refers to per 20 minutes of ice-time. 

When On Ice With Gonchar
Player TOI GF GF/20 GA GA/20 GF%
Cowen 648:18 18 0.555 29 0.895 0.383
Phillips 367:25 14 0.762 10 0.544 0.583

Given these differentials in goals for versus goals against while on the ice, one would assume that this pairing was relatively effective. Delving a little deeper into the sabermetric analysis, I found that this Phillips/Gonchar pairing actually got killed in the puck possession game. Similar to the GF/GA rates, CF and CA refer to Chances For and Chances Against. 

When On Ice With Gonchar
Player TOI CF CF/20 CA CA/20 CF%
Cowen 648:18 578 17.831 569 17.554 0.504
Phillips 367:25 340 18.508 384 20.903 0.470

Gonchar was actually a more complete defenceman playing with Cowen and it's safe to assume that the positive Goals For to Goals Against ratio that Sarge experienced with Phillips is left to random chance and good fortune. Now, I'm fretful to watch these two play together. 

(those numbers via stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

On the first power play unit…

“Well, I think we might put Sergei out with Erik with Spezza’s group or Turris’ group for the most part for the first power play or even come back with Wiercioch and Benoit – they were a pretty good power play group for Luke (Richardson) down in Binghamton, so we could use them on the second unit. And Chris Phillips has always been good about shooting the puck on the power play last season, or we could always leave one of the guys out there and put Patrick Wiercioch out with him possibly. But the first unit, we’re going to see if we can get Sergei and Erik out there to begin with. But again, that’s going to depend on how their shifts go and what they can generate.”

I guess this puts an end to the Methot / second PP unit experiment. 

On Latendresse through the camp…

“Well, for Guillaume it’s his size and strength and his comfort level down around the net. He doesn’t mind getting in there and doing some battling. He’s a big and strong guy and he’s got a real good set of hands for a guy who’s (big). He’s comfortable down there and I think that a real important part of a team is to have someone that’s really comfortable there and isn’t afraid to go in there and battle. He’s really going to help our team in that fashion.”

Otherwise known as the Holmstrom Effect. 

On the personnel on the third and fourth lines…

“The bottom six has got some good depth. They have a lot of different abilities. They can play physical. They can play with the puck. They can hang onto pucks. They can contribute offensively; they’re not just out there just to kill the clock until we can get the other guys back out there, the expectation is that they can come  out and play. I think what they really allow us to do is push the pace of the game because of their abilities to skate and their conditioning level. We should be able to keep a pretty good pace to our game and those guys are expected to contribute as well.”

It's a wealth of riches on those third and fourth lines. Although I have some concerns about the relatively poor puck possession metrics that the Greening-Smith-Neil line brings to the table, they should bring the physical, hard hitting, agitating style that fans embrace. If anything, this line will help satiate the appetite of post-game callers who complain about the team's lack of toughness. At the other end of the spectrum is the Regin, O'Brien and Condra trio, a line that boasts two puck possession wingers and a Bobcat Goldthwaite doppleganger. What's not to like? 

Is there a tendency to focus on your game or your gameplan…

“For the most part, it’s all about us. I mean, we have some stuff… (Olli) Jokinen is a new player on their team and Evander Kane is a good player, we have to make sure we identify (them)… Blake Wheeler had an outstanding season for them last and (Dustin) Byfuglien and (Tobias) Enstrom on the blue line. And the goaltender, we’ve got some stuff on him. But for the most part, the total focus is on us getting out, coming out and getting our identity established early.”

By stuff, MacLean's referring to the fact that Pavelec is renowned for: 1) blowing leads; and 2) blowing over on breathalyzer tests.

On what kind of teams are favored by a 48 game schedule…

“I think it favors a team that can get out and get started and gain momentum; whatever that is – veteran players have been there before and they know how to get themselves ready and young guys have got lots of energy. And I think with the way the schedule is, and you’re playing 48 games in 99 days or whatever it is, I think youth is going to be well served in this as well; as is the depth in the organization. There are going to be injuries. There is going to be fatigue and you have to not be afraid to use your depth, and I think it’s going to test everybody’s depth in the whole league as to who’s going to be standing in the end.”

"We are the envy…"

On the internal competition on the roster…

“Well, that’s the best way to have it. It’s way better if they’re pushing each other than me pushing them. I think that competition for ice-time — power play time, penalty killing time – within your team is very healthy and that’s one of the things that makes you good much faster than over time. Inner competition is what can make a team really good.”

Word. Drop the puck already.