This one came a little out of left field: The Toronto Maple Leafs have filled out their coaching staff with the hiring of former Ottawa Senators head coach and Jack Adams winner Paul MacLean.

Many might have assumed if a MacLean was getting an assistant coach’s role on Keefe’s bench, it would be Paul’s son, AJ, who coached for the Marlies for several years under Keefe. There is no doubt a familiarity between the Keefe’s and the MacLean’s that partially motivated this hire, in addition to input from Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan, who played under MacLean for a season in Detroit.  With Keefe said to be seeking more experience on his staff after the hiring of Manny Malhotra last week, Paul fits the bill with over 14 years of NHL coaching on his resume, all but four of which were spent as an assistant — in Arizona (1996-97), Anaheim (2002-2004, 2015-2017), Detroit (2006-2011), Columbus (2019-20).

MacLean is best remembered for his years as a head coach in Ottawa (remember the “pesky Sens”?), where he won a Jack Adams in 2013 — the same Spring of the famous media exchange with then-Montreal Canadien Brandon Prust over a controversial hit on Lars Eller in the playoffs.

MacLean’s tenure with the Senators followed the trajectory typical of many coaches in the unforgiving NHL, and especially in Ottawa: lathered in (partially undue) praise and awarded a Jack Adams, subsequently thrown under the bus and chased out of town just a year and a half later following questionable ownership/management decisions (this after the situation in Ottawa turned toxic post-Alfredsson exit). While MacLean was reported to have lost the room in Ottawa and his relationship with Erik Karlsson had soured, the handoff to MacLean’s assistant at the time, Dave Cameron, spectacularly backfired. 

Friend of the site and Senators beat reporter, Callum Fraser, recaps MacLean’s Senators tenure like so:

Really weird tenure in Ottawa. Kind of typical for a coach here in the past decade. The honeymoon phase featured him winning the Jack Adams and then also leading a legendary beat down on the Habs in round 1. He was money in front of a mic during that run (only two rounds, ousted by PIT). Also, that timeout he called at 6-1 vs. Montreal was unreal.

His relationship with Karlsson was a bit of a red flag. I think he had a quote about limiting his strikeouts, which led people to believe that he was trying to rein Karlsson in, which is the opposite of what you want to do with a guy that won two Norris trophies — especially during that time. He was a god.

There are some funny connections here to controversial coaching figures in Leafs history: MacLean was a long-time assistant to Mike Babcock, who brought MacLean with him from Anaheim to Detroit, where the two won a Cup together in 2008. He rejoined Anaheim’s staff after his exit from Ottawa — serving as an assistant to one Randy Carlyle.

MacLean was also a part of the opposition’s coaching staff a few weeks ago in the playoffs, having joined John Tortorella’s bench as an assistant in Columbus a month into the season.

With three trips to the Cup finals in his past and ample time spent in both conferences on a variety of benches as an assistant spanning three decades, the Leafs have beefed up the experience factor here notably by adding a second former head coach on their staff in an assistant’s role — the other being former Flyers bench boss, Dave Hakstol, who while a head coach in Philly, had only three years and change of NHL experience before he was hired by Toronto last summer.

Who Paul MacLean is not is Bruce Boudreau. Again, I have my suspicions the Leafs wanted to avoid the media circus it would’ve invited on their new head coach in Sheldon Keefe. It’s also a possible factor that the Leafs wanted to get their bench in order sooner than later, while Boudreau might be waiting around to see if a head coach job offer is coming his way.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Reshaped Coaching Staff Under Sheldon Keefe

Sheldon KeefeHead Coach
Dave HakstolAssistant Coach
Paul MacLeanAssistant Coach
Manny MalhotraAssistant Coach
Steve BriereGoaltending Coach
Jordan BeanVideo Coordinator and Statistical Analyst
Sam KimVideo and Coaching Coordinator

“Over nearly two decades as an NHL coach, Paul has filled every role on a coaching staff, winning a Stanley Cup and Jack Adams trophy along the way,” said Sheldon Keefe in a press release. “Adding someone of Paul’s expertise and character to advise and assist our staff is something that we felt was very important as we seek to make tangible steps next season.”