Joe Thornton

DeBoer predicts ‘big bounce-back’ in San Jose


So much for the San Jose Sharks becoming a “tomorrow team.”

Based on what Pete DeBoer said today at his introductory press conference, a “tomorrow team” isn’t what he signed on to coach.

“I think if you enter the San Jose Sharks organization, like I am as the head coach, the expectation is to win right now,” he said. “Regardless of the ages or the birth certificates of the players, there’s a tradition here of winning and of challenging to go deep into the playoffs. That’s my expectation. I think that’s [GM Doug Wilson’s] expectation, and I don’t think anyone’s looking for anything less than that here.”

Despite the Sharks having just missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003, DeBoer is predicting a “big bounce-back” for San Jose, which still boasts Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on its roster.

DeBoer was asked what needs to change to avoid a repeat of 2014-15.

“I’ve got some ideas in my head, but I can’t box it up for you in one package,” he said. “I can tell you I believe it’s fixable, and the biggest thing that’s going to be fixed – and the most comforting thing to me – is the character of this group.

“You’ve got a lot of proud people here that aren’t too happy about where they were sitting at the end of last season. My history with that is, if you’ve got character and you’ve been through that, you’re ready to push back. And I think we’re going to see that.”

‘There’s nobody that wants to fight Jamie Benn,’ says Stars GM


There’s been plenty of praise for Jamie Benn recently. After capturing the NHL’s scoring title with a final-night flurry — on what was later acknowledged to be a serious hip injury — then earning a nomination for the Ted Lindsay Award, it seems people can’t say enough about good things the Dallas captain.

Like his boss, for example.

“There’s nobody that wants to fight Jamie Benn,” Stars GM Jim Nill said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “I’ve seen it in so many buildings.

“The game gets a little bit rough, he kind of looks at somebody and the fire is put out.”

Benn, 25, is a pretty tough customer. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, racked up a team-high 120 hits this season and, over his six-year NHL career, has fought 14 times, which includes couple of memorable scraps.

Like this one, against Francois Beauchemin:

And another, perhaps most famously, against Joe Thornton:

The toughness factor has played a big role in Benn’s quick ascension to star status. Over the last two years, he’s accomplished an awful lot — won an Olympic gold and Art Ross, became team captain, helped Dallas snap a five-year playoff drought — yet never strayed from the gritty, sandpaper stuff.

“It’s amazing what he’s done just in the two years that I’ve been there,” Nill explained. “And what is he — 25? He’s not even in his prime yet.

“And he’s laying in bed right now with two hip surgeries. He played the whole year injured. People don’t understand that. It’s an amazing what he’s done. The encouraging part is where he’s headed. You know he’s going to get even better.”

Related: Stars’ Benn undergoes second hip surgery

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


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.”

Report: Babcock, McLellan top Philly’s list to replace Berube


Didn’t take long for the Flyers’ wish list to go public after firing Craig Berube.

Per TSN and CSN Philadelphia, two coaches currently under contract — Detroit’s Mike Babcock and San Jose’s Todd McLellan — are the leading candidates shortlisted to replace Berube, who was dismissed earlier this morning.

Neither name will come as a big surprise. Babcock is in extremely high demand, with Toronto and Buffalo believed to be among the most interested suitors. The Leafs and Sabres, like the Flyers, have already fired their head coaches (Peter Horachek and Ted Nolan) this offseason.

As for McLellan, the situation is tricky. He left San Jose’s locker clean-out day amid major acrimony, with his job status questionable and Joe Thornton delivering a parting shot. McLellan seems as though he’s all but done with the Sharks, especially with numerous reports that he and the organization will agree to mutually part ways, but McLellan also said he doesn’t expect an answer on his future until he leaves to coach Team Canada at the World Championships on Apr. 24.

As for the Flyers’ timeline, GM Ron Hextall said he’d like to have a coach in place by the NHL Entry Draft, which goes in late June. Hextall also said he has no desire to keep the hire “in the family” and bring aboard a coach with former ties to the organization (see: Berube, John Stevens, Bill Barber.)

“We’re looking for the right guy,” Hextall explained. “Whether he has connections or not is not going to be part of the equation. I don’t care about that. We’re looking for the best coach possible to coach our team moving forward.”

Thornton now has harsh words for McLellan as Sharks mess festers


Bad feelings tend to flourish when teams suffer from losses and disappointing seasons, but it’s difficult to think of many situations where players and executives aired their grievances as publicly as the San Jose Sharks have.

It’s really been a mess since last summer, and if you expected media availability to be full of no-comments or diplomatic responses, then you probably weren’t close to Joe Thornton.

Not that long after Thornton told his general manager to shut his mouth, the Sharks’ former captain and frequent lighting rod made sarcastic comments toward his head coach Todd McLellan this time around, as reports.

Q: There’s a lot of focus on the coaching staff. Do you sense any need for change?

Thornton: “I have no idea. Todd has to talk to his family. Maybe he should talk to this family as well in here. We’ll see what happens.”

Sheesh, that’s a little salty, huh?

It wasn’t the only sign that Thornton, 35, has some hard feelings for a coach who may or may not return next season. This seemingly sarcastic comment from his brother (and agent) about McLellan coaching Team Canada at the 2015 World Hockey Championships also suggests that all is not quite well:

For those wondering why the Sharks don’t just trade this problem away, do note that Thornton has a no-trade clause, so it may not be such a straightforward process … and that’s assuming they’d want to deal a guy who still is a big difference-maker on the ice.

The malaise hanging over the franchise is quite obvious, and it hasn’t been lost on players like Logan Couture, who admitted that he doesn’t think the culture is “great.”

Whether the Sharks make some big changes or largely stay put, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this franchise raise a few eyebrows before training camps for 2015-16 kick in.