The Sharks were officially eliminated from postseason contention Monday night, meaning that — for the first time in 12 years — there’ll be no playoff hockey in San Jose, and the club’s final two games of the season hold zero significance.
Well, that’s not entirely true. They seem to be significant to head coach Todd McLellan.
“The teacher and his classroom, the last few days of school and we’ve got two games left,” McLellan said, to the Mercury-News. “Those are important days.”
That’s pretty much all McLellan was willing to say on the matter of his future in San Jose, deflecting questions about whether he’d be back next year.
“I don’t want to talk about anything until we’re done,” he explained. “There’s a lot of evaluation that has to go on. Now, I want to enjoy the team for a couple of games and then we’ll deal with that after.”
There are major rumblings that McLellan will be turfed at season’s end. Though he’s achieved a remarkable level of success over the last seven years — the Sharks went 310-162-66 on his watch — the team suffered a significant blow during last year’s playoff collapse to the Kings and never seemed to recover. San Jose appeared to be a rudderless ship for long stretches of this season, with McLellan often questioning his club’s identity.
There are also suggestions McLellan will be part of a large-scale housecleaning.
Given how badly things went both on and off the ice in San Jose, GM Doug Wilson is under fire as well. The fifth longest-tenured GM in the league, Wilson’s held his post since 2003 — in lockstep with the organization’s consecutive playoff appearance streak — and the Sharks owe most, if not all, of their identity to his vision and handiwork.
And that’s what might cost him his gig.
San Jose lacked consistency and leadership this season, and Wilson’s fingerprints were all over it. He called the Sharks a “tomorrow team,” but also said the goal was to make the playoffs. Joe Thornton was stripped of his captaincy, reimplemented as an alternate, to which Wilson gave a hamfisted explanation in front of a group of ticketholders in mid-March, to which Thornton replied “Doug needs to shut his mouth.”
Last week, a report from Sportsnet claimed that McLellan — who has one year remaining on his contract — had an opt-out clause should Wilson be fired. Though the accuracy of that report has been called into question, it only fueled the fire that the Sharks could be in line to hire both a new GM and head coach this summer.
As such, it’s not surprising to hear McLellan dodge questions about his future in San Jose. Though the writing may be on the wall — lest we forget, he’s already been tabbed as one of the premier coaching candidates for teams in need this summer — McLellan probably figures it’s best to leave the talking to the players, like Joe Pavelski, who addressed the HP Pavilion fans after the team’s final home game of the season on Monday.
“I just want to say that nobody on this bench is satisfied with the position we’re in right now,” Pavelski following a 5-1 drubbing to Dallas, also per the Merc. “It’s disappointing for us. We expect more out of each other.
“But with that said, we really appreciate the passion and energy you guys bring to the Shark tank every night for us. And we’ll do better next year.”