Paul MacLean: I believe you have to score your way to the Cup

MacLeanThe cliche in sports has always been that offense wins games and defense wins championships. The reality is you need a little of both, and you probably have to be pretty exceptional in either one of the areas to finish the season on top of the pile.

Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean met with the media on Saturday after his team lost in the first round of the playoffs, and he had an interesting comment as to why they were unable to defeat the New York Rangers and ultimately win the Staney Cup.

Said MacLean, via Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, "I believe you have to score your way to the Stanley Cup, not defend your way. We didn't score enough goals.''

Out of curiosity, I went back over the past 15 Stanley Cup winners to see where they finished the season in terms of goals scored and goals against.

The results...

Stanley Cup Winners: Goals for and Goals Against Rankings
Team (Year) Goals For Rank Goals Against Rank
Boston Bruins (2010-11) 8th 3rd
Chicago Blackhawks (2009-10) 3rd 5th
Pittsburgh Penguins (2008-09) 5th 18th
Detroit Red Wings (2007-08) 3rd 1st
Anaheim Ducks (2006-07) 9th 7th
Carolina Hurricanes (2005-06) 3rd 18th
Tampa Bay Lightning (2003-04) 3rd 10th
New Jersey Devils (2002-03) 14th 1st
Detroit Red Wings (2001-02) 2nd 3rd
Colorado Avalanche (2000-01) 4th 3rd
New Jersey Devils (1999-00) 2nd 7th
Dallas Stars (1998-99) 8th 1st
Detroit Red Wings (1997-98) 2nd 7th
Detroit Red Wings (1996-97) 6th 2nd
Colorado Avalanche (1995-96) 2nd 8th
Average Rankings 4.9 6.3

There is a slight edge toward offense, and only one team over the past 15 seasons won the Stanley Cup while finishing outside the top-10 in goals scored. By comparison, three of the past seven winners finished 10th or worse in terms of goals against.

Here is where the remaining playoff teams rank in goals scored: 2nd (Philadelphia), 8th (Nashville), 11th (New York Rangers), 14th (Washington), 15th (New Jersey), 18th (Phoenix), 21st (St. Louis), and 29th (Los Angeles).

Of course, simply looking at goal-scoring may not always be the most accurate way to go about this. Remember, MacLean said that he believes you don't "defend" your way to the cup. You could also take that to mean that you don't want your team spending time in its own end of the ice "defending". Puck possession is the goal of just about every team in the league these days, and the priority is to get in the offensive zone and basically play defense by playing offense.

The Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues, for example, are viewed as great defensive teams but neither one is forced to spend much time "defending" in their own end of the ice. Instead they're seemingly always in the offensive zone, even though they they don't have a ton of goals to show for it this season (though, the Kings have steadily improved over the past few months and seem to have found their finishing touch around the net).

Either way, I like that MacLean seems to have challenged conventional thinking.

Photo: Getty Images

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CBS Sports Writer

Adam Gretz has been writing about the NHL and taking an analytical approach to the game since the start of the 2008 season. A member of the PHWA since 2015, he has spent more than three years covering... Full Bio

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