NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan:
Todd McLellan was hoping the schedule would be kinder to the San Jose Sharks, that it would allow them to be home this week to enjoy the buildup and be a part of the hype leading into their 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Los Angeles Kings at Levi's Stadium on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA2).
McLellan didn't get what he wanted. He's on the road with the Sharks for a game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday and the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Levi's Stadium rendering (Click to enlarge) Photo: NHL
By the time the Sharks return home, the rink at Levi's Field will be finished and ready for them to skate on Friday. The media will already be in town. The hype machine will already be blasting, even without the home team in the same time zone.
So instead of having the benefit of being at home to promote arguably the biggest hockey event to ever come to Northern California, McLellan is finding the positives in being on the road this week.
"I think it would be to our benefit to be at home as far as promoting it and getting our players out and taking in the whole week of excitement, but we don't have that luxury so maybe we have to look at it from another perspective," McLellan told NHL.com. "That's being on the road, you won't have the distraction. You're just on the road playing hockey. That can be the positive."
The question for McLellan now is, in what shape will the Sharks return for the big game?
The Sharks are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday when they were plagued by many of the same warts and inconsistencies that have been plaguing them all season. They flew to Nashville on Monday in second place in the Pacific Division; they woke up Tuesday in fourth place.
"We're all over the map too much," McLellan said.
McLellan spoke to NHL.com about how the Sharks are preparing for the Stadium Series game and what some of his concerns are in the following Q&A.
Here are Five Questions with … Todd McLellan:
How have you tried to keep this team focused with the EPIX show, the camera crews constantly there, the Stadium Series game coming up, hype building? Have you done anything to try to keep focus here?
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"Well it's a new experience for our group, obviously the first time being in an outdoor game and the first time being involved with any type of TV recording our actions and our words. They're around all the time, and I have to tell you the EPIX crew has done a tremendous job in giving us our space, in recognizing emotions and when to be around and when not to. So that part of it hasn't really affected us a lot, or at least to this point it hasn't.
"The outdoor game is still a little bit far enough away that we haven't sensed a distraction from that, but I would imagine this week, as family and friends start arriving in town and the media picks up more on it, we're going to begin to see pictures of the rink, the ice surface and the building, and all of that can lead to distraction. But we have enough to focus on right now that we shouldn't let our minds wander. We're not in a comfortable enough position to let that happen. We have games to prepare for and I'm counting on the leaders to do a good job and come and compete. I know when that outdoor game comes, both teams, L.A. and us, regardless of what our schedules are, they're both going to be excited."
Do you view this Stadium Series game as a benchmark on the schedule, and by that I mean are you saying to yourself, 'Let's get there, see where we are, and after that, win or lose, now the final push is on.' When normally it's the NHL Trade Deadline that marks the final push, is it earlier for your team this season because of the outdoor game?
"I think there have been some interesting benchmarks for us and this would be one of them. For us, we played 16 of our first 20 on the road, and when we got to that point that was sort of a benchmark through a tough point. Christmas was the next, and most teams look forward to that break. Obviously the All-Star break, when guys start to tire a little bit, they needed it. This is the next one for us, the next milestone we're looking towards. Post-outdoor game we have four or five days off and it's a chance for us to recharge our batteries. Sometimes that is the trade deadline, but in our case it is the outdoor game."
Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said right before the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic with the EPIX crew around that it helped galvanize his group because it was all right and front and center, there no hiding, everything was on camera and documented, there was no hiding. He said it helped bring them close together. Is that happening with the Sharks too, and is the second half of the game against Arizona on Friday a sign of it?
"I would say there is potential to that. I'd like to think it is happening, but I don't think we're deep enough into the process. We have some time left, but we've had some very emotional situations, both highs and lows, within our team environment while they've been around. I think that Trotz makes a very good point. We'll wait to see if it galvanizes our group. I think it can certainly help, but I don't think we're deep enough into it yet. There is still time left to answer that question."
You guys beat Los Angeles, you beat Chicago and you beat Anaheim all in a row. Then you lose to Edmonton, Calgary twice, Carolina and Washington. It screams inconsistency. Is that inconsistency still maddening or is it something you think you're getting a handle on at all?
"It's still frustrating. We're working to get a handle on it. We're trying a lot of different things. But it is very frustrating. We have the skill, the ability, the tools to be a consistent team, and we haven't been. That's the most frustrating thing. We've tried a lot of different things. You can talk about it over a period of days, but you can also look within a game and the consistency hasn't been as strong as it needs to be. We can be world beaters for one period, not so good for the next period. We're all over the map too much, and inconsistent teams don't win in the end. We've got about a month and a half to solve this problem, but in the meantime we have to bank as many wins as possible so we get an opportunity at that second season."
Let's finish with this: Are you excited for this outdoor game? Are you pumped? Is this something you have been thinking about for a while?
"Absolutely. I think I can speak for everybody in our organization, and it's not just about the players and the coaches and the managers, there are multiple people in our organization that are really passionate and excited about this. I know the community is. Everywhere I go people are talking about that game, and maybe sometimes we get ahead of ourselves talking about the outdoor game. I have people telling me that they have tickets for it, that they're going. I have people telling me they're sitting in section 228, and I don't even know where that is. But it is exciting for a lot of people."