"I wish you were congratulating me on a win but thank you anyways."
That was Todd McLellan's response to congratulations on his appointment as head coach of Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey which takes place next fall. You could sense with the response above that the coach of the Oilers was still stinging a bit over Edmonton's 4-2 loss in their home opener at Rexall Place. That is his primary focus right now but in 11 months time he will turn his attention to guiding a team that will compete against Canada, which will be weird, along with the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Team Europe and the United States. "It's an exciting opportunity," said McLellan. "I had a great experience with the national team."
That might even be an understatement considering what he did at the World Hockey Championships. Canada conquered all challengers this past spring in putting together a perfect 10-0 record capped off by this country's first gold medal at the Worlds since 2007. This will be different mostly because of the age restrictions on team North America. It will be made up of the top players from Canada and the United States who are 23 or under as of Oct. 1, 2016.
"It will be similar I guess but at the same time different," acknowledged the new Oilers bench boss. "It will be a little like coaching this hockey team."
In fact, it will be like that when you break down the lineup of who is here and others on the way.
"When you look at this club (organization) there's Nuge, Connor, Griffin (Reinhart), Draisaitl, Nurse," explained the Melville, Saskatchewan native." I'm not saying all those players are going to be on the team but it's comparable when it comes to age of the players." Draisaitl is German so he's out but you look at the other Oilers who fit the age restrictions and Nugent-Hopkins along with McDavid look like real possibilities to double dip as players on two Todd McLellan squads.
Prior to his arrival in Edmonton, McLellan spent the past seven seasons as the head coach in San Jose. He posted a record of 311-163-66 in 540 games. During his tenure, the Sharks had six playoff appearances, four seasons of 40-plus wins, three 100-point seasons and three Pacific Division titles. In 2009, the Sharks won the Presidents’ Trophy and McLellan was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. From one of the best in the league to now doing his best for two teams.
"It's so far away and it's about spending my time and energy with what's going on here," explained McLellan. "With a staff familiar with me and a year into it we should be polished and advancing our game and the program."
There could be some crossover between the one man with two jobs. A lot of it has to do with the success of his two-country club before he returns to his NHL team.
"Selfishly speaking you'll miss time (with Edmonton) because the young team is doing well," but as pointed out by McLellan "If they don't have success I'm likely back for opening day."
When asked what kind of team he expects to have next September for the World Cup here's what coach had to say: "I think the energy level will be high. We'll be an underdog team that will cause grief for some of the more mature teams."
McLellan was taking about Team North America but he could have been easily talking about the Edmonton Oilers. With one set of congratulations out of the way he's hoping more of that will be directed at him this weekend.