Under pressure: Todd McLellan

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The coach of a California-based NHL club under pressure to get his team to the promise land, its a common theme in the Golden State unless your name is Darryl Sutter of course.

San Jose’s Todd McLellan, who by the way wasn’t fired during the off-season, despite having his name be linked to a number of coaching vacancies is back behind the Sharks bench for a seventh season.

This after his team collapsed in epic fashion blowing a 3-0 series lead to the LA Kings in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

In May, Sharks’ majority owner Hasso Plattner voiced his disappointment in the team’s playoff failures in a statement. Plattner added he was confident that general manager Doug Wilson would make the appropriate changes moving forward.

Apparently keeping McLellan, who is believed to have two years remaining on his contract, around is part of that plan. His supporting staff, which includes associate coach Larry Robinson and assistants Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft, is still in tact as well.

McLellan has been at the helm for six seasons in the Bay Area after serving as an assistant coach on Mike Babcock’s staff in Detroit from 2005-08.

In San Jose, McLellan has guided the Sharks to six consecutive playoff appearances; however, they’ve reached the conference finals only twice.

Once getting to the final four, McLellan’s teams have won just one of eight games – that was a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Since then, McLellan hasn’t been able to get his team past the second round despite finishing in the top 3 of the Pacific Division each year.

Following his team’s most recent collapse, a 5-1 loss in Game 7 to the Kings, McLellan called it his lowest point.

“I’m responsible for this group,” he said while at the podium at the SAP Center. “Low point since I’ve been here … that’s an easy one to answer.”

Wilson is apparently willing to go down with the sinking ship.

He re-signed Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to similar three-year contracts in January and tacked on no-movement clauses despite heading into a rebuild. Both have two years remaining on their deals after 2014-15  all but guaranteeing they’ll be in San Jose longer than McLellan and Wilson.

Wilson’s motto this off-season appears to be addition by subtraction.

He dealt defenseman Brad Stuart for a pair of draft picks and decided not to re-sign veteran Dan Boyle. Additionally, Wilson, who has been with the club since 2003, bought out forward Martin Havlat.

As it stands, it appears Wilson is banking on players such as sophomore Tomas Hertl and third-year NHLer Tommy Wingles, who had 16 goals in 77 games last season, to pick up the slack up front and help veterans Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.

On the back end San Jose is hoping defenseman Mirco Mueller can make the leap and help fill out the top six.

According to CapGeek, San Jose has a little over $6 million to play with.

But without much significant help left on the free agent market, Sharks’ fans have to hope Wilson can make additions by trade or else its quite a similar looking team, which will once again try to get San Jose to that elusive Stanley Cup final.

Related: Trying to make sense of the ‘rebuild’ in San Jose

Trying to make sense of the ‘rebuild’ in San Jose

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San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has always maintained that any conversations he had with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau would remain private. So it’s impossible to conclude, exactly, what’s been said between the club and the two veterans since the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead versus the Kings in the first round of the 2014 playoffs.

That said, a lot of people have hazarded a guess. Because, in public, Wilson has thrown out cryptic comments like, “I want players that want to play here, not just live here,” and, “I don’t want to put a name on you, but you’re a guy that hasn’t won, had a long career, you want to go win. You might say, ‘this doesn’t fit for me.’”

Combine those remarks with the Sharks’ decision to not re-sign veteran Dan Boyle and to trade another veteran, Brad Stuart, and then consider Wilson’s stated intention to “turn the team over to the younger core, make some tough decisions, clarify our culture and the hierarchy of our team,” and you’d be excused if your conclusion was this:

Wilson wanted to trade Thornton and Marleau. Except the two players, each of whom hold a no-movement clause, refused to go.

(And you could hardly blame them for refusing to be forced out. The Sharks had only just re-signed the pair in January, giving each player a three-year contract that Wilson said at the time “fit with our team building philosophy.” Translation: they could’ve received more on the open market, but they really wanted to stay in San Jose, so they took a hometown discount.)

In July, Wilson was left to try and clarify the “rebuild.” Or maybe a better word for it was backtracking?

“I can understand when people say there are different types of rebuild,” he told the Mercury News. “We’re not going to finish last to try and draft people first or second. This is not something this franchise can do, because we already have some good players in key positions. You’re not going to see us with 50 points next year — we’re too good a team for that.”

Instead, Wilson said the Sharks intended to rebuild their culture and become a more tightly knit group — a plan that includes giving more leadership responsibilities to young players like Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun.

Where does that leave Thornton and Marleau? Hard to say. But it would be a surprise if Thornton were still wearing a ‘C’ and Marleau an ‘A’ come the start of the season.

Could that make for an awkward dynamic in the dressing room? Yep, it could. And that could be a distraction.

On the other hand, it could also turn out for the best. There are many who believe Wilson overreacted to the loss, devastating as it was, to the Kings, who went on to win their second Stanley Cup in three years. After all, the Boston Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead in 2010 and came back to win it all in 2011.

Granted, the Bruins didn’t have the history of postseason disappointments that the Sharks have. But San Jose was a very good team in the 2013-14 regular season. Its reward for finishing with 111 points? A match-up with Los Angeles. Which was a bit unlucky.

At any rate, San Jose is going to be a very interesting team to watch next season. And assuming the Sharks make the playoffs, which they should, an even more interesting team to watch then.

It’s San Jose Sharks day on PHT

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You can pretty much sum up San Jose’s 2013-14 campaign with two words:

The collapse.

In the opening playoff round against Los Angeles, the Sharks became just the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead, the most disappointing playoff defeat for a franchise that knows plenty about them. The loss was so gut-wrenching, in fact, Logan Couture said the bitter feelings will “probably never” go away.

The collapse also started what’s been one of the most dramatic and, at times, dysfunctional offseasons in franchise history. After GM Doug Wilson and owner Hasso Plattner decided to retain the front office and coaching staffs, things got dramatic.

A sampling of PHT headlines from this summer:

GM Wilson suggests Sharks might need to ‘take one step backwards’

Kings could see fear in Sharks’ eyes before comeback

Sharks GM Wilson: ‘We now become a tomorrow team’

Columnist: Sharks are ‘having a bit of a nervous breakdown right now’

‘I want players that want to play here, not just live here,’ says San Jose GM

Marleau: Remarks that Sharks aren’t tight-knit not ‘a big thing’

Then came the moves.

Veteran d-man Dan Boyle wasn’t retained. Martin Havlat was bought out of his contract, Brad Stuart was traded to Colorado and Brent Burns was returned to defense.

But Wilson didn’t stop there.

Seemingly fixated on beefing up, Wilson re-signed tough guy Mike Brown and inked journeymen pugilists John Scott and Micheal Haley in free agency. This was, of course, with San Jose already employing the likes of Andrew Desjardins, Adam Burish and Raffi Torres. Then, sticking with the “tomorrow team” narrative, San Jose retained a number of its young players — Tommy Wingels, James Sheppard, Jason Demers and Alex Stalock.

But perhaps the biggest and most telling moves Wilson made… were the ones he didn’t make. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were retained despite rumors swirling around both; in early July, the Sharks actually brought back a longstanding veteran in blueliner Scott Hannan.

In the end, the offseason left people with more questions than answers, especially when it came to explaining what the Sharks were doing. Is this a re-build? A re-tool? A culture change?

We’ll spend most of today trying to figure it out.

Couture hopes ‘devastating loss’ can motivate Sharks

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Before the San Jose Sharks did it in the 2014 playoffs, the last NHL team to blow a 3-0 series lead, the 2010 Boston Bruins, went on to win the Stanley Cup the following year.

Logan Couture is hoping the Sharks can do in 2015 what the B’s did in 2011.

“Obviously it was tough, the way we finished last year, but I’m really hoping this summer guys build off it and come back a lot stronger, a lot hungrier,” Couture told Sportsnet 590 The Fan today. “It’s probably the toughest loss I’ve been through… It was pretty devastating. It’s really stuck with me the whole summer.”

Couture also went to bat for Joe Thornton, saying the Sharks’ captain “doesn’t deserve the heat that he’s taken” in the wake of San Jose’s most recent, and most painful, postseason disappointment.

San Jose kicks off the 2014-15 regular season on Oct. 8 in Los Angeles, where the Kings — the team that fought back to eliminate the Sharks — will raise their second Stanley Cup banner in three years (on NBCSN).

Related: Wilson explains the ‘rebuild’ in San Jose

Wilson explains the ‘rebuild’ in San Jose

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When hockey fans hear the word “rebuild,” they usually think of a team like the Edmonton Oilers. Haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. Three first overall picks in a row from 2010 to 2012. The plan in Edmonton was to be bad, and rebuild a winner through the draft. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but that was the plan.

That’s not the plan in San Jose, according to general manager Doug Wilson. But make no mistake, the Sharks are still rebuilding.

“I can understand when people say there are different types of rebuild,” Wilson told the Mercury News. “We’re not going to finish last to try and draft people first or second. This is not something this franchise can do, because we already have some good players in key positions. You’re not going to see us with 50 points next year — we’re too good a team for that.”

Instead, Wilson says the Sharks need to rebuild their culture and become a more tightly knit group — a plan that includes giving more leadership and team-building responsibilities to young players like Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun.

Where that leaves veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is, of course, the big question. Both have no-movement clauses and don’t want to leave San Jose, where they’re under contract through 2016-17. But Wilson has made it clear — perhaps in an attempt to convince them to accept a trade — that they’re not priorities anymore.

“The rebuild is committed to,” Wilson said in June. “The players that fit for now and the future, their growth is going to be the primary thing.”

Related: McLellan doesn’t rule out stripping Thornton of ‘C’