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Sharks, McLellan mutually agree to part ways

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks and Todd McLellan parted ways Monday, beginning what general manager Doug Wilson said will be a methodical search at all levels, from college to the NHL, for a replacement for the winningest coach in Sharks history.

"We don't want to rush," Wilson said during a press conference at SAP Center. "I want to get the right person. There's people that would like to coach here. We've got a lot of good players. We're in a good position to go forward. There will be some coaches that will probably become available in the next little while. So I don't want to rush the decision from a shortened pool."

Wilson said he'll look for a coach who can "take us to the next level" and be in place for years to come.

"There will be people who will come available shortly," Wilson said. "We will not be limiting it to one pool of coaches either. It can be coaches from all aspects, whether it be college, junior, NHL. There are some really quality, talented people out there. We have to make sure we make the right selection so it's another seven, eight, 10 years with the right guy."

Since becoming Sharks general manager in May 2003, Wilson has hired one coach, McLellan, on June 12, 2008. McLellan replaced Ron Wilson, who was fired by Doug Wilson after coaching the Sharks for five seasons

McLellan was 311-163-66 in seven seasons in San Jose. He led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs his first six seasons, but San Jose's streak of 10 straight playoff appearances ended this year.

Under McLellan, the Sharks reached the Western Conference Final in 2010 and 2011; they also won the Presidents' Trophy in 2009.

But last spring the Sharks blew a 3-0 lead in the first round and lost in seven games to the Los Angeles Kings. That historic playoff collapse convinced Wilson to accelerate a rebuilding program he had started the previous season.

McLellan and Wilson said the decision to part ways was mutual.

McLellan will continue to be paid over the final year of his contract, unless he's hired to coach another NHL team. If he's hired by another NHL team, the Sharks will receive a third-round draft pick as compensation. McLellan said he was not offered a contract extension.

"Down the stretch this year, once we were eliminated, I had to review myself," McLellan said during a conference call. "I had to talk to the management team, including Doug Wilson, (assistant GM) Joe Will, and try to project where we would be at Christmas, where we would be a year from now and what happens after that because this team is clearly in a rebuild, and with one year left and moving forward, I had to analyze where things were going. And with the answers I got, I felt it was time."

McLellan told Wilson of his decision Sunday, after having a few days to talk with his family.

"He came back to me just over this weekend and had made his decision and shared with me it was probably time," Wilson said. "I concur with that. I think he and I mutually agree that it's what's in the best interest of himself but most importantly for the organization, and I respect Todd for taking that into consideration and sharing that with me."

The Sharks on Monday fired assistant coaches Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft, as well as video coordinator Brett Heimlich. Larry Robinson, who had served as associate coach, began his full-time role as director of player development at the end of the season.

Wilson said he interviewed 21 coaches before hiring McLellan, about a month after firing Ron Wilson, and said he's already been contacted by some potential coaching candidates.

"It doesn't take long in this business," Wilson said. "This is a place that people want to play. We do have some good players. Our coaching staff has certainly coached up some of the young guys who didn't have great years this year but we know they're good players. We have some quality veterans. We have some young players who are playing in Worcester (of the American Hockey League) who will come and compete with this team.

"We're trending upward and we're going to bounce back very quickly. What I'd like to see us do is start another 10-year run of making the playoffs. "Sometimes a lesson learned like this, I don't want to say can spur you on, but anybody I've ever met in life, when you skin your knee falling down, you get up and be better because of it."

McLellan said he would like to coach another NHL team this coming season, but it will have to be the right fit.

"If I get that opportunity it will have to be right for me and for that team, if it does exist out there," McLellan said. "I would like to keep going and do what I do. ... Where I go from here I guess I somewhat control, but there are other people out there who have to make decisions. I'm comfortable with my career as a coach so far. I don't have any regrets here in San Jose, and I feel good moving forward."

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