Antigonish is where the heart is for Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean

Paul MacLean looks just as much like a lobster fisherman as the reigning NHL coach of the year.

The Ottawa Senators’ bench boss makes no bones about his attachment to Antigonish, where he grew up and has lived for the last 40 years.

“My parents are from there, my wife’s from there,“ he said in Halifax on Tuesday for a youth fundraiser. “It’s been a place where I’ve always been allowed to be who I am. They never allow me to become bigger than I am.”

MacLean is a straight shooting favourite among his players as well as media and fans alike. Part of his success lies with his ability to bring out the best out of his players.

“I spend a lot of time with players and find out what they think,” said MacLean. “They’re out there, we as coaches are standing behind the bench with a two dimensional picture. They’re the ones with the three dimensional picture.”

As he prepares for next season without the services of Daniel Alfredsson, the Senators’ captain for the last 15 years who signed with the Detroit Red Wings last month, he has no doubt his players will fill the void.

“Can we get over that leadership bubble? I think we can but that requires everyone taking a piece of it, taking some responsibility.”

Hard to doubt him after a year where the Senators willed their way to a playoff spot even without the services of Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Erik Karlsson, star centre Jason Spezza and goaltender Craig Anderson for major stretches of the season.

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