When Todd McLellan created his coaching staff upon his arrival in Silicon Valley, he brought one constant with him from Detroit. He hired his old video coach Jay Woodcroft and made him an assistant coach.
Yet, he might be the assistant coach Sharks fans are the least familiar with as they never see him on the bench. At practices, Woodcroft is working with McLellan and Assistant Coaches Trent Yawney and Todd Richards to run drills and see that the foundation for games is in place.
However, during games at HP Pavilion or on the road, Woodcroft is settled into the coach’s offices watching the contests through state-of-the-art video monitors and replay equipment.
“During games,” Woodcroft said, “I watch the game in our offices as it happens.”
Woodcroft is like having a coach watching the game from the press box and being in contact with the bench coaches. Except in this case, he’s doing it from the locker room.
“We look at different things during each game,” Woodcroft said. “Scoring chances, the forecheck, the power play, the penalty kill, the defensive zone coverage.”
Thanks to his proximity and with the video equipment, Woodcroft can immediately identify any needed adjustments.
“In a recent game, there was a question at the end of a power play and we were able to make adjustments and clarify the situation right away,” Woodcroft said.
“We break things down during the game and I’m on a headset to Todd Richards,” he added. “If we see something, we can let the bench know about it right away.”
While the ice level view is exciting, coaches have trouble properly seeing and identifying certain situations. That’s where Woodcroft comes in.
“I see things from a different viewpoint than they do at ice level,” he said. “A lot of different things are happening on the bench. I can see the big picture and it’s immediate and you can get it right with the replay.”
During the two intermission breaks at each game, Woodcroft and the entire coaching staff convene and use video to show players what exactly needs to be tweaked.
“Between the periods, we meet as a coaching staff,” Woodcroft said. “Then we’ll mostly go over things with the team and sometimes with an individual. We sit together and make decisions together.”
Still, hockey players must be allowed to do what they do best and Woodcroft and the rest of the staff knows every single play doesn’t need to be broken down.
“There’s a fine line between giving our team too much information and not enough,” he said. “Ultimately it comes down to implementing the game plan. We don’t want them to be choreographed.”
Woodcroft’s work isn’t limited to just the Sharks on the ice at practice or during games.
“Another part of what we do is prepare for the other team,” he said. “Pre-scouting is a huge part of the job and so is knowing and evaluating teams before we play them. We read everything and break them down by video. Maybe there are areas we can exploit.”
Woodcroft takes a special interest alongside Yawney on special teams.
“An important part of my job is working with Trent Yawney on the penalty kill,” he said.
With his duties on the ice at practices and in every coaching meeting, Woodcroft is appreciative of the help the club’s video assistant provides.
“Brett Heimlich does a lot in providing us with video,” Woodcroft said.
Woodcroft doesn’t have the traditional hockey background. After all, he played at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. But his professional career is taking a different path. Woodcroft began in the National Hockey League as a video coach for Detroit and won the Stanley Cup. Now he’s an assistant coach for the team with the best record in the NHL.
“I was given a great opportunity in Detroit and am very lucky to be part of a terrific staff here that has empowered me,” Woodcroft said. “I’m very grateful to both clubs.”
He may not be visible like McLellan, Yawney and Richards, but Woodcroft is an important part of the Sharks coaching staff.
ONE AND IN If the Sharks get a point in Friday’s game at Edmonton via a win or an overtime loss, Todd McLellan will be the head coach of the Western Conference at the NHL’s All-Star Game in Montreal later this month.
NEXT GAME The Sharks will visit Edmonton on Friday at 6 p.m. PST and the contest will be carried on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.