EDMONTON, AB - Todd McLellan is a polite and pleasant man, but don't get him upset.
Don't get him mad or you get to see the other side of him. You need both sides when you're an NHL coach. I believe McLellan has mastered, or at least close to mastering, the dual personalities necessary to be a coach in this league or any major league sport. Understanding sometimes it's a pat on the back that works best, or a quiet word of encouragement or reinforcement.
It's about understanding what works best for each individual or the team. When the above isn't getting your point across then it's time to raise the volume meter and go for the direct approach.
It's what we saw at practice on Wednesday and thinking back it's what we saw his first day on the ice as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. It was day one of training camp and the team was starting fresh with a new GM, a new coach and a new attitude. I had covered McLellan since his days in Detroit but it was in San Jose we saw and spoke to him a handful of times per season. He was engaging, interesting, open and honest. I'm not sure I ever saw or heard him raise his voice but I definitely heard the loud Todd McLellan on that September day in 2015 out in Leduc. You couldn't help but hear him. His focus was instructing and motivating the Oilers. Fast forward to present day and that hasn't changed.
Over the past couple of seasons, I have been able to see and get to know the person as well as the coach. I sat lounge chair to lounge chair one day in Tampa. He came out and sat near me. I wouldn't have been offended if he went off to a corner far, far away but he didn't. Even then I would have been fine with just a nod and a wave. Instead it was a role reversal. He asked the questions and I provided the answers. A half-hour conversation that turned into an invite. He and the coaches were getting together for a bite to eat and he invited me along. I'll say I don't get many if any invitations like this, which is fine.
I'm around every day for months on end so giving space to the staff and players is important. I decided to go and met up not only with Todd but the rest of the coaching staff. We sat for a few hours and talked hockey but as fans, not coaches/media. It gave me some insight into things that can't not be found in the 'W' or 'L' column.
However, it is the 'W' and 'L' columns that coaches rely on for employment. With a 1 in the 'W' and a 2 in the 'L' column the 'other' Todd was on display after Monday's loss to Winnipeg. He wasn't happy with the result and the way Edmonton got to the 5-2 final score versus the Jets, so he let his players know that.
You can't always be the 'nice' guy or the 'mad' guy. To me, Todd McLellan is a players' coach but that shouldn't be confused with being light and easy on them. Far from it. It's hard to win in the NHL. The Oilers coach knows that. He doesn't want his players forgetting the time, effort and sacrifice it took to make it all the way to game 7 of the second round. Consider Wednesday's practice a reminder that McLellan can become a Hot Toddy when necessary.