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.”