SAN JOSE -- Peter DeBoer was one of three finalists from a pool of 21 candidates when the San Jose Sharks hired Todd McLellan as their coach seven years ago.
DeBoer was the last candidate standing this time after San Jose general manager Doug Wilson conducted a lengthy search to replace McLellan, who left the Sharks on April 20.
Wilson introduced DeBoer as Sharks coach at a press conference at SAP Center on Thursday.
DeBoer had no NHL coaching experience seven years ago but was a decorated junior hockey coach. Since then, he has coached six-plus seasons in the NHL, the first three with the Florida Panthers and the next three-plus with the New Jersey Devils. The Devils reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, DeBoer's first season with them, but lost to the Los Angeles Kings in six games. He's been fired twice, first by the Panthers after 2010-11 season and then by the Devils in December following a 12-17-7 start.
"He went to Florida, a challenging situation. Never an excuse," Wilson said. "He goes to New Jersey and takes every experience and builds on it and says, 'OK, how can I be better?' I really admire that. I really do. A lot of coaches around the League, very successful, probably the most successful, they go through two or three jobs before they kind of hit their prime, much like a player. There's a certain experience level. When I interviewed him and sat down with him in Toronto, it was just really impressive. He built on where he was seven years ago. He earned the job."
DeBoer, 46, is 205-183-70 in the NHL, but only the 2011-12 Devils qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He replaces the winningest coach in Sharks history but takes over a team that missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03. Their 89 points this season were fewer than all but two teams in the Western Conference (Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers).
"I'm excited," DeBoer said. "I look at that roster, and it reminds me a lot of the first year I went into New Jersey. It was a group of character guys that had been used to winning that had fallen on some tough times. Similar to here, they had missed the playoffs for the first time in a long time after a long history of winning.
"Similarities in falling a little bit short in the playoffs. Up to that point, I think New Jersey hadn't been out of the first round in five or six years despite some great regular-season performances. There's a lot of similarities. What I found with the group in New Jersey that I see here is a group of veteran guys and young guys that have a little bit of a rut here. I think their true character is going to be tested. I see enough character in that room that I see a big bounce-back year."
DeBoer took being fired by the Devils hard but said he had no thoughts about retiring from coaching. He wanted to coach again in the NHL as soon as possible.
"When you go through something like that, you have a bad taste in your mouth," DeBoer said. "You want to get right back on the horse and prove I wasn't part of the problem. I think that Doug giving me the opportunity to do that right away is something I've been waiting for from the moment I got fired in New Jersey."
DeBoer said that after being fired he felt "like a caged animal walking around," but he did get to spend more time with his wife and three children and helped coach his two sons' hockey teams. Then in May, DeBoer was an assistant under McLellan for Canada, which won the IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic.
DeBoer said he made a point not to ask McLellan, who was hired as Edmonton Oilers coach on May 19, too many questions about the Sharks organization or players.
"I really feel as a coach I want to come in here with a clear mind and an open slate for all the players and all the staff and really make my own decisions on what's here," DeBoer said. "Todd respected that."
DeBoer has a reputation for being a defensive-minded coach who stresses puck possession, but he said what he values most is the ability to apply pressure.
"I believe in pressure hockey," DeBoer said. "The more pressure you can put on the other team in all three zones -- defensively, in the neutral zone, and in the offensive zone -- the better off you're going to be. I think players want to play that way, and I think fans want to watch that type of hockey. It's structured pressure, make no mistake about that. You got to be on the right side of the puck and you can never cheat the system. We're going to start right from Day One implementing that structure and that foundation, and that's going to be the base that's going to carry us through."
Wilson described DeBoer as a coach who is curious and creative, hard but fair, one who doesn't shy from making tough decisions. On the ice, Wilson said he expects the Sharks to be very aggressive under DeBoer.
"We don't want to sit back," Wilson said. "You take a look in this league and you get down a goal or two, no problem. Even if you're up a goal, you don't want to sit back. I really like his pressure, aggressive attitude all over the ice.
"I would say his interview and what he's added to himself in the last seven years is really impressive. You do learn through good experiences, bad experiences. To me, a really bright guy who has taken every experience and added an additional layer to it."