OTTAWA, Ontario - As he was taking in the media circus after the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in his home arena, Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean was stopped and questioned by reporters about what's been essential in him establishing himself as a successful first-time head coach in Ottawa.
"The moustache," MacLean deadpanned to the interviewer, who was lost for words.
MacLean's bristles, which have earned him a moniker of The Paulrus on this site, aren't all MacLean has going for him, though. He's also earned the respect of the players, and that's translated to results on the ice.
"[MacLean]'s brought accountability, he's brought in a good system, and he's let us have fun, too," said Jason Spezza, when asked during the weekend what MacLean's done to lead the team to their success. "We're a hard-working team, and we work hard in practice. He makes sure everybody knows where they stand on the team, but he also lets us enjoy the game."
That accountability leads to trust, and that's something MacLean believes is indispensable for a coach to earn from his players.
"When you're trying to build a foundation like we are, trust is a big part of it," said MacLean. "The leadership that Daniel [Alfredsson], Spezza, [Milan] Michalek, and [Erik] Karlsson, even a bit, have shown in the direction of our team, and have made a big difference. As we move forward, a big part of it is doing things right and doing them together, and trust is a big part of that."
Just as important to Spezza and his teammates, though, is MacLean's experience--as a coach and as a player.
"He's played the game," Spezza explained. "He coaches like a coach, but he can think like a player sometimes, too. That's a great way I've heard him described. He has a very sharp wit to him, so he's known to get onto guys a bit, but he's first and foremost a coach. A coach's job is to make sure we're trying to win."
So far, the trust and the moustache have done well for MacLean and the Senators, helping drive the team to sixth in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Break. The final 30 games will offer a tough field to plough for the team, but as long as the players and coaches maintain their trust in one another, the Senators could very well make a lot of pre-season predictions look silly by earning themselves a playoff berth.
If that happens, hopefully the Paulrus' moustache will be joined by some formidable playoff beards.