January 27, 2023

Totally Random Hockey Player of the Day: Paul MacLean

Paul MacLean and his big bushy moustache was Dale Hawerchuk's regular right winger for most of his time with the Winnipeg Jets.

Big Mac was a very underrated player in his day, with much of his success immediately credited to his superstar center. The dirty work on that line (often with Brian Mullen on LW) often ended up on MacLean's plate. He was  a solid defensive player and, thanks to his size and balance, an above average grinder. It was often MacLean's job to retrieve pucks from the heavy traffic areas in the corners and the slot. He was a handful for defensemen to handle, but because he was generally such a clean player he rarely garnered the notice other lesser players have received.

MacLean had good anticipation skills and surprising speed for such a big man. Offensively he relied on his terrific wrist shot, which feature a very quick release. He was far from one dimensional though, as he had good vision and, with soft passes, he utilized his linemates well.

MacLean was a rare NHL player born in France - Grostenquin, France to be specific. But he was a Canadian kid through and through - an Air Force brat who spent far more time in Cold Lake, Alberta and Chatham, New Brunswick where his father was regularly stationed.

The St. Louis Blues drafted MacLean 109th overall in the 1978 NHL draft after a solid junior career in Brockville, Ontario and Hull, Quebec. While with Hull he was almost traded to the Quebec Remparts in exchange for Kevin Lowe. Hull nixed the deal after MacLean scored 5 goals in a single game.

Despite the promise MacLean exhibited, he was not one to follow the usual route to the NHL. Instead of signing professionally and earning his stripes while riding the buses in the minor leagues, MacLean enrolled at Dalhousie University to pursue his education. A season later he joined the Canadian national team and made the 1980 Olympic squad. Canada failed to medal at the 1980 Lake Placid games.

After the Olympics MacLean finally turned pro. He had a real solid freshman year with the Blues farm team in Salt Lake City, and even earned a 1 game call up to the NHL.

Despite the promise shown that season, little did MacLean know his future did not lie in St. Louis. He was part of a package of players including goalie Ed Staniowski and defenseman Bryan Maxwell shipped to Winnipeg for a big young defenseman named Scott Campbell.

Campbell never really found his way in the NHL, but MacLean sure did. Over the next 9 seasons he was a regular 35 goal scorer. In three seasons he topped the 40 goal mark. Only once in that time span did he fail to reach 30 goals. That injury plagued year he still registered 27 red lights.

All told, Paul MacLean scored 324 goals, 349 assists for 673 points in 719 career games. He became a long time coach following his playing days, finally landing a NHL head bench job in Ottawa in 2011.

If I were to compare Paul MacLean to any other player in NHL history it would have to be Dave Taylor, the long time LA Kings right winger. Both were really solid, physical wingers who played in the shadows of superstar centers (Hawerchuk in Winnipeg and Marcel Dionne in Los Angeles.)

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