The commitment wasn't evident when MacLean started the season with the Rangers. After a sluggish training camp he was singled out by coach Ron Low (he scratched MacLean for 15 of New York's first 17 games) and G.M. Glen Sather (" MacLean can't get up and down the ice anymore," Sather said in October) and then was put on waivers. When no other team claimed him and MacLean refused a buyout (he was in the final year of his contract), Sather sent him to Manitoba on Nov. 15. "I thought, Why me?" MacLean says, "but I knew I had to get through it. I wasn't ready to retire."
MacLean struggled with the Moose, scoring only six goals in 30 games. However, the Stars have revived the careers of several aging players in recent years (forwards Kirk Muller, 35, and Benoit Hogue, 34, to name two), and when New York agreed to pay most of MacLean's salary, Dallas acquired him for future considerations on Feb. 5. MacLean was ice fishing on the Red River with Moose teammates when he found out about the deal. "I wasn't asking many questions," he says. "When an organization like that thinks you can help it, that's motivation."
Hitchcock put MacLean with Muller and Mike Keane, 33, to form the Stars' grittiest and savviest line, and Dallas, which has clinched first place in the Pacific Division, was on an 8-0-2 run as of Sunday. "I just want to be a piece of the puzzle," MacLean says. "I just want to help."
NHL Award Suggestion
Show Lady Byng The Door
We enjoy handicapping the year-end trophy winners as much as anyone, but forgive us if we're not juiced about declaring who should take home the Lady Byng Trophy. Rewarding an NHL player for "gentlemanly conduct," as the Lady Byng does, is like honoring the year's most modest Playmate. Hockey players aren't supposed to be gentlemanly, unless that means saying "excuse me" before slamming an opponent into the boards. The award, which in recent years has been bestowed on players whose only credential has been staying out of the penalty box (read: not playing very tough defense), should be abolished.
The league, which gives 13 trophies at the end of each season, should replace the 76-year-old Lady Byng with an award for the best defensive defenseman. Honoring a stay-at-home defense-man (the Norris Trophy is almost always given to a blueliner with strong offensive numbers) would be welcome recognition to an unheralded but indispensable type of player. After all, defensive defensemen do the things-including delivering hard, clean checks—that a hockey player is supposed to do.