More than two months after a first-round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the San Jose Sharks turned to a Hall of Fame defenseman to help them get back on track.
The Sharks on Monday named Larry Robinson as their associate coach under Todd McLellan.
Robinson, the former coach of the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, made it clear during a conference call he's arrived solely to help McLellan, that he's not a potential option for the top job if the Sharks get off to a rough start this season.
"That was the first thing that I said when I came into the room," Robinson said. "I do not want to be a head coach. I'm not here to take Todd's job. I'm here to help in any way I can. I wouldn't want to be a head coach knowing that there's somebody with a gun behind me waiting to shoot me whenever something went wrong. So we will work out things when they're not going right. But you've got the best head coach here in the best position possible, and I don't foresee any problems at all."
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson waited almost two months after the first-round loss to the St. Louis Blues before publicly announcing that McLellan would return for his fifth season as San Jose's coach.
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McLellan said Monday he has no concerns about his job security and sees Robinson as an asset, not a threat.
"From my end of it, I'm very confident in the job that I do and that our staff brings to the organization," McLellan said. "I think the players and management respect that. I was given every opportunity to be involved in the selection process. It was an organizational decision that I fully support. As a young coach in the League, I'm looking at ways to get better, and I think that Larry's a great tool for our organization, but also for Todd McLellan."
Robinson, 61, brings a sparkling resume as a player and coach to the Sharks. He won the Stanley Cup six times with the Montreal Canadiens, where he spent the first 17 years of his career before playing the final three with Los Angeles. A 10-time NHL All-Star, he won the Norris Trophy in 1977 and 1980 as the NHL's top defenseman and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1978 as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.
Robinson won the Stanley Cup again in 2000 as New Jersey's coach -- he was promoted with eight games left in the regular season -- and led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final in 2001, where they fell to the Colorado Avalanche in seven games. He was an assistant coach for New Jersey during two Stanley Cup championship seasons, 1995 and 2003, and was a Devils assistant this season when they lost to Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup Final.
Robinson was the Kings' coach from 1995-99 and served two stints as New Jersey's head coach.
Robinson will work with San Jose's defense and penalty kill, which ranked 29th last season and was abysmal during the playoffs (allowing six goals in 18 shorthanded situations over five games).
"I don't think there's a lot to change here," Robinson said. "I think you've got a lot of very, very strong people on defense in (Dan) Boyle and (Brent) Burns, just to name a couple, and (Douglas) Murray. But everybody I think as a hockey player, you need somebody that you can talk to about different things. And even if you're the best player in the world, at some point you have to be told that you're doing something wrong.
"So it's my job to try to not only make them good hockey players but to make them better hockey players. If it means taking them out to lunch, if it means kicking them in the butt, whatever it takes, whatever Todd decides that I'm going to do, then that's what we're going to do."
McLellan said he has yet to establish specific roles for assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft. In hiring Robinson, McLellan said he helped fill a void created when former assistant Trent Yawney left the Sharks after the 2010-11 season.
"We did miss Trent Yawney," McLellan said. "Trent brought a tremendous amount to our organization and our team. His experience as a player, especially on the back end, his ability on the penalty kill, just his credibility when he walks into the locker room, having played upwards of [600 games] with a number of different organizations, lent a lot of credibility to our staff, and we did miss him."
Robinson played 1,384 regular-season NHL games and made the playoffs in all 20 of his seasons as a player.
"His resume speaks for itself," Wilson said. "There's nobody in this business that I respect more as a player, as a coach and as a person than Larry. It's a very exciting day for our organization."
Robinson said he talked to Montreal and the Tampa Bay Lightning -- he has a home in the Tampa area -- about assistant coaching jobs. But Montreal wound up hiring Jean-Jacques Daigneault, and the Sharks job offered him something no East Coast team could -- a chance for him and, particularly, his wife, to be closer to their grandchildren in the Southern California city of Redondo Beach.
"I just felt this was the right move for me," Robinson said. "It allows me to not only come here to work with some great people but also to work with an organization that I think is going in the right direction. It gives me another chance to win another Cup. Also, I thought it was important for me and my family to move a little bit closer to the grandkids and allow my wife a little more freedom to do what she loves to do, to be around the kids, and for me to do what I love to do, which is to be around the rink and work with great people."