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Behind The Sharks Bench

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
During Sharks games, the players bear the heavy lifting. But on the bench, the coaching staff is always watching and tweaking the game plan to bring home two points.

When things need to be changed, Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson and his Assistant Coaches Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler are there to re-align the stars.

“You have a game plan beforehand and we’re constantly talking among the three of us,” said Hunter. “Rob is talking to Ron. I’m talking to Ron.”

Wilson oversees the entire process and Hunter, with the forwards, and Zettler, with the defensemen, work in their separate areas.

“The job of an assistant coach is go give a lot of suggestions and Ron has the final say on what we do,” said Hunter.

During a game, Hunter and Zettler work with their units to direct traffic and decide who is on the ice.

“I pay attention to the defense and decide who is up next and make appropriate changes against certain matchups,” said Zettler.

Sometimes line combinations and defensive pairings will last an entire game and sometimes changes are required early on.

“If I feel something is not going well, I’ll quickly run something by Ron and he’ll say yeah or keep it the same,” said Zettler.

“In games, sometimes there are very few changes,” said Hunter. “It’s determined by what you’re doing well, what the other team is doing, the time of the period and the time of the game.”

Usually the problem can be addressed with a quick discussion on the bench and by pointing out what happened via the bench computers possessed by the Sharks.

“Both Rob and I have tablet PC’s and watch the replays,” said Hunter. “We can rewind it and watch a goal or mistake.”

“If a player is fighting it, you try to simplify it,” said Zettler.

Still, the Sharks staff tries to be aware of over-coaching.

“You want players to be instinctual and not be worried about what the coach is saying all the time,” said Hunter. “They’re pretty intelligent and know when they’ve made a mistake.”

When a heavier hand is needed, the assistant coaches leave that to Wilson.

“One thing as assistant coaches, we’re more instructional and positive,” said Hunter. “If they need a kick in the pants, that’s Ron’s job.”

Ice time is also a factor that the coaches control.

“The average shift should be 35 to 40 seconds,” said Zettler. “Sometimes it’s longer on the power play or the penalty kill, but when you start going over 50 seconds, it’s not a good sight.”

“Our team is at its best when it’s around 40 seconds,” said Hunter.

When it comes to dealing with the referees, that is normally reserved for the top dog.

“If there is anything to be said, Ron makes that call,” said Hunter. “We may talk to a linesman if the center on the other team is cheating.”

“Once in a blue moon, they (refs) will tell us if the defense is starting to leave the bench early,” said Zettler.

While the coaching staff may disagree with a call or two, they know the man in the striped shirt is doing his best.

“Its human nature to want to treat the referees with respect,” said Hunter. “There are only so many and you’ve got to face them again.”

During the twenty minute intermissions, the Sharks coaching staff can take a longer look at the previous action and try to find an advantage.

“In between periods, we analyze video on the laptop,” said Hunter. “When we’re home, someone is marking the game and we can take it to a meeting and plug it into the SMART Board (a highly interactive big screen centrally located in the locker room) or sit personally beside someone with a play.”

When it comes to set plays, they are few and far between for hockey players. But when faceoffs are deep in either zone, tactics definitely come into play.

“Mostly its breakout plays we’ve practiced,” said Hunter. “Not many (designed plays). The faceoff is about it if you’re defending or trying to score a goal. You try to give them the idea.”

Coaches do an amazing amount of work the day prior to games, practicing game plans on the ice and going over tape following practice, but when the puck is dropped, they are constantly looking for that one advantage that can be the difference between winning and losing.


The Sharks tweaked their lines for practice with Torrey Mitchell skating alongside Patrick Marleau and Thomas Plihal, making Steve Bernier the odd man out. Joe Pavelski moved alongside Mike Grier and Patrick Rissmiller and Marcel Goc jumped in with Jody Shelley and Jeremy Roenick. Joe Thornton, Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo remained together.


The Sharks will be at home this weekend with back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

On Saturday February 9, the Sharks will take on playoff rivals the Nashville Predators at 7:00pm and Upper Deck will be giving away San Jose Sharks Trading Packs.

The featured players are Jonathan Cheechoo, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Craig Rivet, Joe Pavelski and Captain Patrick Marleau. The trading card packs include pictures and career statistics of the individual players.

The first 10,000 fans will receive an Upper Deck Trading Card pack upon entry.

Come and catch the Upper Deck Trading Card fever, while watching some hard hitting Sharks hockey!

The Sharks will continue their six-game homestand when they play hosts to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, February 8 at 7:30 PM (Pacific). The game will be available on FSN Bay Area in High Definition, 98.5 KFOX FM, Sharks Radio Affiliates and

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