Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Will and trust and hunting polar bears

Apparently Todd McLellan chose “trust” as the theme of the season for the Sharks.  If the team has been doing trust exercises, I bet there are a lot of bruised derrieres right now.  This morning Twitter was fairly quiet regarding the Sharks.  Two lone tweets came out from practice saying only that the gates were closed and the injured defensemen were skating before the group.  It was an unsettling silence, a silence that allowed for all manner of speculation after yesterday’s loss.

@FTFsTCY: “There are definitely rumors floating around today. Just an FYI that any involving Marleau are bunk. He has a full NMC.”

It turns out that David Pollak was still in transit from Denver, and his internet access was limited. Kevin Kurz was ill. I guess Mark Emmons just didn’t feel very chatty.  Nothing much came out today in terms of Sharks news, especially about the NHL issues of the day. No one has a concussion and McLellan has not been fired.  And no, Marleau is not being traded (as far as we know).

Will Doug Wilson fire Todd McLellan?  Doug Wilson said he believes in his staff.  Five coaches have been fired this season.  Which of those GMs broadcast his intentions in advance?  Well, some did but not on purpose.  It would make no strategic sense.  It also would not be reasonable to promise you won’t do it.

@IvanoSJ: “How much longer Sharks can do this till Doug Wilson steps in?”
During SJ @ Avs game last night

I sincerely hope Todd McLellan will not be fired for a long time. Too many of these coaches seem to have been sent packing as a smokescreen, not removed to be replaced by someone better.  Many look like distractions from ill-advised decisions by the GM.

Even if coaches have a notoriously short tenures, that doesn’t mean changing them will always bring improvement.  If the players “stop listening” or get bored of the same old spiel, maybe those players should grow the hell up and act like professionals, ask some questions, give their input, and change the tune.  By all accounts, McLellan works well in that environment, is open to input.  There is no other way to handle players in this NHL.  Think they can be browbeaten or kicked in the rear end?  Think again.  Five coaches fired.  How many stars moved?

I don’t think McLellan’s team is sulking.  I don’t even think they are fighting him, on purpose.  I think some of them are stuck.  It’s part of McLellan’s job to get them unstuck, but that’s easier to do with youngsters than vets.  As you get older you get stickier.  You need to unstick yourself.

@FTFsTCY: “Right now, I’d probably rather watch 60 minutes straight of the Kia Hamsters than the Sharks middling efforts.”
During SJ @ Avs game last night

Two players I think of as being “stuck” right now are Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle.  They aren’t stuck in the same way but they are such powerful influences that, being off their game, they can make a bigger hole than their absence would.

I don’t know what is ailing Boyle but he may need to stop trying to fix it. Find another way.  Check his skates.  Hey, the stick was wrong, maybe his skates need fixing too.  If it isn’t an easy fix, move on, treat it like an injury and work around it.  Letting his own lack of confidence bleed out to the rest of the team is toxic.

@brodiebrazilCSN: “Thornton assessing the #sjsharks Power Play: mostly lacking “confidence” right now.”

Confidence. That comes up a good deal.  Another word the Sharks have used a lot: simplify.  Simplify. I do not think it means what they think it means.  That, or they keep forgetting it too quickly.

I know that both Thornton and Boyle are capable of doing very impressive things, or they have been.  Right now they aren’t doing them.  What do you do if you are a leader in a group and you find yourself not performing, not able to lead by example?  Do you keep struggling to get your game back, kicking yourself, feeling like a loser, work harder until you get it back?

How’s that working out?  It might be time to stop falling in the same hole and try walking around it for a while.  Maybe later you can come back and fill it in, fix what’s driving you crazy.  Right now?  Move on.  Be a leader.  Trust your teammates to carry the load. Give them your eyes.  Quit naval gazing and wake up to how much more damage your flagging confidence is doing than your loss of playmaking or nimbleness or stick handling or whatever the hell is balled up in your head.

If you really believe that you are only as good as you are good at what you do, then you can’t take the leap from player to leader.  Leading isn’t just about imposing your will, it’s about trusting your followers.

@brodiebrazilCSN: “McLellan’s top PP issues for #sjsharks: initially not coming out clean, o-zone entry, passing, timing. “It’s a big concern of ours”.”

Simplify.  That play Thornton is always looking for there in the corner, the success of which is becoming rare as a polar bear, that one should maybe go into storage.  Maybe it isn’t a complicated play but the simple solution to it not working it to stop using it.  What does the honest doctor say when you tell him: “it hurts when I do this”?  “Then don’t do that.”

Try something straightforward.  Scott Hartnell has had some nice shots this season, succeeded with good passes and clever misdirection.  But he hasn’t given up the old standby, the “go to the net, fall on the goalie and push the puck past him.”  That still works.  Heck, it worked for Handzus and McGinn.  Maybe try more of those.  They aren’t pretty, they aren’t even really legal, but they work as often as the polar bear hunt in the corner.

Does it seem to anyone else that Thornton moves clockwise too much?  That would be another simple change to try.  Move counter clockwise, exclusively.  If nothing else, it gives a different view of the ice.  Try that.

I am pretty sure that players with as much experience as Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle could come up with better ways to simplify than falling on the goalie and skating in the other direction.  How about they show us some of them?

The trust exercise is not about catching your partner when he falls. That is the easy part.  The test is when you let yourself fall and know someone will catch you.  That’s how you build trust and confidence, not only in yourself.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: dan+boyle, doug+wilson, joe+thornton, leadership, todd+mclellan, trust

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net