Would McLellan like to coach McDavid? ‘You can have the best player and still not have the best team’

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No longer the head coach of the San Jose Sharks, Todd McLellan was asked today if he’d like to coach Connor McDavid, the likely first overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers.

McLellan’s answer was an interesting one.

“I would like to coach a great group of hockey players next year,” he said. “Connor McDavid is, obviously, everybody’s talking about him and his ability to come in and have an impact. I’m assuming that the Oilers will pick him number one.

“But one thing that I’ve learned: you can have the best player and still not have the best team. It’s about team. It’s about a group. It’s about the whole organization and the culture of the organization.

“Connor’s going to be a very exciting player to watch — again, I’m assuming in Edmonton — and he’ll have an impact on the league for years and years to come. But the bigger story is about the group as a whole.”

Take that as a shot at the Edmonton Oilers and their culture. Or, take it as a parting shot at the Sharks and theirs. Both clubs have been criticized for their losing ways — Edmonton despite three first-overall draft picks already in its lineup; San Jose for its failures to get the job done in the playoffs.

Maybe it wasn’t really a direct shot at anyone, and McLellan was just setting the table for his next opportunity.

Regardless, he wants to coach next season, and he’ll be a top candidate for vacancies in Toronto, Philadelphia, and Buffalo. And if there are openings anywhere else (Edmonton? Detroit?), probably those places too.

As for why he and the Sharks “mutually agreed” to part ways? McLellan said that with one year left on his contract and the team “clearly in a rebuild,” he felt “it was time.”

McLellan also shared some thoughts on his much-maligned former captain.

“I can tell you, ’til my last breath, I can tell you that I have a ton of respect for Joe Thornton,” he said.

“He’s a tremendous player, first of all. He cares immensely about the organization, about his teammates, and he has a strong passion for winning. And that may be one of the big misnomers out there, just because he is a relaxed guy and that type of stuff.

“But my respect level for him is very high. There’ll be a day when he’s going to be put into the Hall of Fame, and hopefully as he goes in there with all the awards, he can finish his career by winning a championship. I know that’s what his passion is all about.”

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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