NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday during the regular season and every other Tuesday in the offseason. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The San Jose Sharks have had a curious offseason.
There has been talk of a rebuild coming from general manager Doug Wilson despite the fact the Sharks needed one more victory to eliminate the Los Angeles Kings from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season before the Kings could even sniff the Stanley Cup they eventually won.
OK, so the Sharks didn't get it, losing four straight to the Kings in the Western Conference First Round after winning three in a row, but they were close and they were playing without their best defenseman, Marc-Edouard Vlasic. It still prompted Wilson to call them "a tomorrow team."
Wilson's statement was labeled as harsh. It made national headlines. It sparked rumors, though unfounded, of the organization possibly looking to trade Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, who have no-trade clauses and have given zero indication of their willingness to waive them.
The Sharks also showed Dan Boyle, Brad Stuart and Marty Havlat the door out of San Jose, but barely got their toes wet in free agency other than to re-sign some of their own guys and acquire some players for depth purposes at the NHL and American Hockey League levels.
So, yes, curious is an adjective that fits, but only to those outside of the Sharks circle. San Jose coach Todd McLellan offered some clarity to the inner workings of the team's offseason in an interview with NHL.com conducted last week.
Here are Five Questions with … Todd McLellan:
People are curious about what's going on in San Jose when Doug Wilson brings up the term rebuild. Can you explain the philosophy regarding what this offseason is about for the Sharks?
"We want to reset the hierarchy and culture in the organization, and that's really where the term rebuild came from. We feel we have a tremendous talent pool. We feel the players that are with our organization are part of the solution and not the problem now. As a staff, we talked about the ability to push and win as much as we can while we get younger, while we adjust the roles a little bit and give some of the younger players more responsibility. The term or the word used like that can be confusing at times. I think a lot of people, especially in the media, immediately went to, 'Well, they're going to trade Thornton and Marleau.' That's not the case. We believe that those two are part of the solution, not part of the problem. That got a lot of play media-wise. That's not what we were about. We think we have a very good hockey club and we think we need to tinker with a few things and continue to push forward."
You touched on this a bit, but can you see how it would get confusing when the term rebuild is tossed out there?
"Well, you know what, when I hear the term rebuild in the non-hockey world if you will, I think of something that gets torn down and you start rebuilding. I guess there's so many different terminologies that can be used for it. We have a plan. We know what we want to do. And we know who we want to be a part of it. As our team sits right now we'll probably head into training camp and continue working on what that plan is."
When you talk about the hierarchy and the leadership group and giving, I guess, more responsibility to players like Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, does that change anything with the captaincy? Is Thornton still going to be the captain of this team? Is Marleau still going to be an alternate captain? Or do you evolve everything around that?
"Those will be some decisions that we'll make as training camp approaches, as players get back into San Jose and settle in. We'll sit with them and talk about that situation. I think we talked about this at the draft, if there was a new rule that came into the League and there weren't any 'C's and 'A's, would there be a leadership group that took care of the team and would the followers step in and contribute when they needed to contribute? I believe so. So, with that in mind we'll see what we do as move forward."
"For me, excitement isn't a good word; opportunity is. He'll get the same opportunity that Taylor Doherty and Matt Tennyson and some of the young players that have put their time in in the American [Hockey] League over the past three years to come in and earn an opportunity to play on our hockey club. Mirco obviously is a very talented young man. He's grown. He's gotten stronger and there should be some focus put on him, but I would like him to be included with a group of players coming into training camp that have that opportunity. That opportunity has been created through some moves, and when you talk about a rebuild, that can be part of the rebuild itself. But it's not just about Mirco; it's about the individual who comes in and seizes that opportunity. That could very well be him, but it could also be others."
I remember last summer talking to Randy Carlyle and Dave Nonis from the Toronto Maple Leafs about what happened to them in the playoffs against Boston and what you have to do to flush it out of your system. Obviously you guys went through something very difficult in the playoffs last season against the Kings. How do you flush that away? Can you flush that away? Or is it already gone?
"I don't think it's gone. I don't think it will leave. That's a very simple answer for me. I hear the players from a distance talking to different media outlets saying the same thing. I believe that's a good thing. There are a couple of different ways of looking at it. The defeat was and still is, it stings a lot. We have to look at what we did well and didn't do well in that series and also the fact they won three Game 7s on the road against very good teams. So they were the champs. There is absolutely no doubt about it. That could mean we have a group that is close but still has to figure out a way to close the deal."