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Petshark: Talking Stick

How much should we put on Todd McLellan for the Sharks’ season?

Still waiting for news from Shark Territory.  Today I listened to the Morning Skate radio show out of Ohio.  They mentioned McLellan as one of the coaches currently under review, who might become available. He was not among the radio show’s first two choices for the Blue Jackets—Alain Vigneault and Guy Boucher were. What I found curious was that Joel Quenneville was on that list too. Really? I didn’t follow the Blackhawks closely at all this season, but what are the chances he’s gone? Tom Renney rounded out that list. Anyway, the lengthy review process puts McLellan in a mixed company of coaches not yet guaranteed a job next season.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun have been playing in the World Championships, but Vlasic was injured in the last game against the USA. It didn’t look very grave but he was listed as day to day with a lower body injury.  Now he is not expected to return to the tournament.

The big ice showcases Braun’s speed nicely. We knew he was pretty fast but the skaters can really let it out in that big space.  Still, it makes me wonder if other Sharks are faster than they seem, on smaller ice, in the Sharks’ system. We know Marleau is fast, but we didn’t get much opportunity to see that this past season. Heck, even White surprised me once or twice by suddenly being much faster than I expected in a Sharks game. I’m not saying White is a secret speedster, but he can move faster than he was… what… encouraged? permitted? required?.. to do most of the time for the Sharks. Something needs to be done about that.

Which brings me back to the first topic.  By this year’s All Star Game, the Sharks were actually doing very well, so well that their coach got to go coach the All Star Game.  It didn’t feel like the team was having their best season, not to me, but there it was: numbers don’t lie, do they?  After that everything fell apart.

When I first reacted to the Sharks being bumped from the playoffs, I hypothesized that the team might not have been focused enough on the first round, because of all their experience. I didn’t only mean the players, maybe I didn’t mean the players at all. Maybe I meant the coaching staff’s refusal or inability to change the way they do things, what they ask the team to do. Todd McLellan says that’s on him. Doug Wilson says the team’s penalty kill didn’t change. Why didn’t it? When something isn’t working, shouldn’t change be something you consider?

What went wrong? Did Wilson send the wrong guys packing last season? Was someone like Scott Nichol critical to group stability? Did Wilson bring too much new body art into the room?  If Huskins and Nichol were able to give the Blues enough information to bring the Sharks down, that would suggest a gross lack of change from last season.  If it was merely Hitchcock predicting the Sharks’ every move, that still indicates a lack of agility in the Sharks’ strategy.  He hasn’t been able to do the same to the Kings.  There is more going on with the Kings, but clearly Hitchock is not infallible.

They say that when a player changes teams, you often see a spike in performance his first season with the new team. It isn’t always the case. It certainly was not the case with the Sharks’ acquisitions. The most improved prizes for the team went to home grown guys like Braun, Wingels and Desjardins. And McGinn. Ouch.

Is the Sharks’ modus operandi too complicated for guys to pick up quickly? Or is it just so awful that it takes a while to overcome it? Did Wilson pick up a lot of guys who don’t thrive in a new environment?

Did Trent Yawney know something his replacement couldn’t possibly understand? If Yawney’s systems were unsatisfactory, how could the team expect a different or better result without bringing in new blood? Wasn’t Shaw the Offensive AC last season? Why exactly was it assumed he would be better as the Defensive AC, or that the video review coach/penalty kill assistant to Yawney be helpful for the team’s offense?  McLellan says he was responsible for the penalty kill, but I thought he meant in the sense that the Head Coach is responsible for everything.  Who actually designed that atrocity?

I believe Todd McLellan is an uncommonly good coach. I have wondered if he was getting bad advice from his assistants. He could be, but shouldn’t he have known that? I don’t know how much or what the coaches say to each other, what path the lines of communications run, how much authority the members of the coaching staff have.  As a general rule, the best leaders do actually know how to do all the jobs they are supposed to be supervising.  That’s how they know if the job is being done well.

Maybe new ACs would help the team immensely, but shouldn’t it be part of a Head Coach’s job to overrule bad decisions from ACs? This is the thing that’s been eating at me whenever I ask myself what went wrong with the Sharks this season. I think that McLellan might thrive with more helpful ACs, but isn’t it still on him that they could trip him up, if in fact they did? Unless McLellan has no idea how to best use the team’s assets, his AC’s should not be able to completely undermine him, should they?  If they can, how the hell does that happen?

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: doug+wilson, iihf+world+championships, justin+braun, marc-edouard+vlasic, todd+mclellan, trent+yawney


gowings's avatar

Well, I was not impressed with the AC’s in Detroit this year…

Posted by gowings from MTL on 05/06/12 at 08:07 PM ET

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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