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McLellan set to break Sharks mark for games coached

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- Making franchise history is nothing new to San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan.

McLellan has more victories (256), a higher winning percentage (.590) and a better percentage of points earned (.652) than any coach in franchise history. He'll add another line in the team record book Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets when he coaches his 435th game, breaking former coach Darryl Sutter's mark.

McLellan downplayed the impending record but not the impact that spending nearly six seasons with the Sharks has had on him.

"There's a hockey joke that you have a tattoo put on you when you spend some time in organizations," McLellan said after the morning skate. "The Shark tattoo is the biggest one I've got, certainly one I hope will grow for many years. It really gets ingrained when you win a championship, so that's still our goal."

General manager Doug Wilson hired McLellan on June 12, 2008, giving the former Detroit Red Wings assistant his first top job in the NHL. McLellan moved to San Jose with his wife, Debbie, and their two young sons, Tyson and Cole. Tyson plays for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.

"When I look back, it's really flown by quickly," McLellan said. "We were talking last night at home, my wife and I. We reflect on my boys and to think that they were in sixth or seventh grade and third grade when they got here and now one of them has moved away. A lot of things have happened in those years, but they've gone by quickly."

McLellan went 53-18-11 in his rookie season as the Sharks captured the Presidents' Trophy in 2008-09. He has led the Sharks to four 40-plus win seasons, three 100-point finishes, three Pacific Division crowns, two trips to the Western Conference Final and five straight berths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Sharks are 36-16-6 this season and appear headed toward another postseason berth.

"I think he's one of the best coaches in this League, and we're very fortunate to have acquired him when we did," Wilson said. "It was right after he just won a Cup [with Detroit]. He was ready. We did an extensive search, and he just fit what we were looking to do, how we were looking to play."

Considering the respect McLellan's players have for him, there is definitely a team-wide appreciation for how significant their game against Columbus will be Friday night.

"It's a huge honor for him," forward Tommy Wingels said. "I think as a player you realize his professionalism. His knowledge of the game is outstanding. It's really second to none, his thought process about the game. Not just scouting teams out but in-game adjustments and just hockey in general. You can really see his passion for the game. It's contagious. You see your coach love the game and think the game in certain ways, you kind of try and follow him as a player."

McLellan's impressive wins total and longevity in San Jose has made him among the most respected coaches in the game. But for the man who hired him, one of McLellan's true coaching strengths is his authenticity.

"He's real. He is who he is," Wilson said. "Sometimes you see people trying to be something they're not. He is very direct, he's very honest, he wants players to succeed. He realizes the team comes first. We're very proud of him and fortunate to have him."

Following their home game against Columbus, some members of the Sharks will leave for the 2014 Sochi Olympics while the rest begin a well-earned break. But even with the Olympic interlude so close, the team would still like to make McLellan's record-setting night a memorable one with a victory.

"Ever since he's come in he's really changed the culture around here," defenseman Jason Demers said. "I think it's shown in how the guys have performed for him and our success we've had the last four or five years. It's a testament to him and how hard he works."

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