Skip to main content

McLellan settling in with Sharks

by Mel Bridgman /
In need of a new coach this summer, the San Jose Sharks turned to Detroit Red Wings assistant Todd McLellan. What better place to go for a new coach than Detroit? The Red Wings were the only team to finish with more points than San Jose last season.

McLellan takes over a team that earned 108 points last season, but failed to win the Cup. The Sharks have had 99, 107 and 108 points during the last three seasons, respectively. Those totals have only been surpassed by the Red Wings (124, 113 and 115 points) during the same three-year period.

"There will be pressure on myself and the organization. The fans, ownership, management and players expect to win."
-- Todd McLellan

"I think there is a parallel between San Jose and Detroit," McLellan said. "It took the Red Wings three years of playoff experience to finally win the Stanley Cup. As a team, we had gained experience from losing to Edmonton in 2006 and Anaheim in 2007."

In the 2006 playoffs, Edmonton beat Detroit in the first round and San Jose in the second round. In the 2007 playoffs, Detroit beat San Jose in Round 2, only to lose to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks, in the next round.

While Detroit won the Stanley Cup this past season, the Sharks again lost in the second round to the Dallas Stars.

"I think there are three types of teams in the NHL," McLellan said. "There are teams building for the playoffs; teams expecting to make the playoffs, and teams expecting to win the Stanley Cup. San Jose is like Detroit in the latter group."

Going from Detroit, an Original Six franchise and a hockey hotbed, to San Jose, out in sunny California, appears radically different. But don't let that fool you. Hockey in California has grown to the point that even the youth AAA teams, at all levels, are looking at competing for national championships.


Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 108
(2nd West/2nd NHL)
Change from 2006-07 +1
Home Points 50
(7th West/12th NHL)
Away Points 58
(1st West/1st NHL)
"There will be pressure on myself and the organization," McLellan said. "The fans, ownership, management and players expect to win. The Sharks have had several successful regular seasons, but not in the playoffs. The pressure to win here will be similar to that in Detroit where the pressure to win every year is immense."

This is McLellan's first time coaching an NHL team. But he has had success at the junior level in Canada with the Swift Current Broncos. The Western Hockey League club had a record of 47-18-4 in his last season coaching there.

In his third year of coaching at the professional level, the Houston Aeros won the Calder Cup as AHL champions. In his third year as an assistant with the Red Wings, he won a Stanley Cup. Can San Jose be patient and wait three years?

During his time in Detroit, McLellan has quickly earned a reputation for being an offensive-minded and creative coach. He was responsible for one of the best power plays in the NHL. McLellan's philosophy seems well-suited for a highly skilled team like San Jose.

"I believe you can teach offense," McLellan said. "Whether a player has one goal or 600 goals, players want to score. We talk offense even in our own defensive zone. But thinking offensively doesn't mean you are not responsible for other areas away from the puck." 

Joe Thornton and company will undoubtedly like hearing how the new coach thinks offensively. But the type of team in Detroit is quite different from the club he will be coaching in San Jose. Detroit found success with trades, free-agent signings and later-round draft picks. San Jose, on the other hand, has a roster full of first-round selections, and most of the players were drafted by the Sharks.

The Sharks' success will be measured equally during the regular season and the playoffs. Experience will be an important issue. 

"To get over the top, we have to deal with pressure in the playoffs," McLellan said. "I think the team has dealt with that this summer. We have brought in Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich and Rob Blake. They have all won Stanley Cups."

In preparation for the season, McLellan and his family have moved into the San Jose area. As with all moves, McLellan says, "I'm actually unpacking boxes as we speak."

Maybe one of those boxes contains an intangible ingredient to help bring the Stanley Cup to San Jose.

View More