Thursday morning at HP Pavilion, Todd McLellan was introduced as the seventh head coach in San Jose Sharks history. Although he’s never been a head coach in the National Hockey League, he was an assistant coach on this year’s Stanley Cup-winning Detroit Red Wings. And looking at an image of McLellan hoisting hockey’s Holy Grail over his head is enough to make any Sharks fan’s mouth water.
If the Sharks were looking for a road map to the Stanley Cup Finals, Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson just hired the GPS system to get them there.
“It’s my job as a coach to push this team, to push them hard, to push them outside their comfort zone and get them to do some things that they’re not comfortable doing,” McLellan said at his introductory presser. “But while I’m doing that, (I’ll) make sure they enjoy the process. And that’s the only way championship teams evolve.”
McLellan has the potential to be successful. He’s worked with some of the best in the business, serving as Mike Babcock’s assistant in Detroit for the past three seasons and working alongside Hockey Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, Detroit legend Steve Yzerman and Minnesota Head Coach and Hall of Famer Jacques Lemaire. The 40-year-old McLellan has led his teams to the postseason in each of his 14 years as a professional hockey coach.
“We are very, very pleased to have a guy that fits for us now and for the future,” Wilson said. “He is a winner. He raised the Cup recently and he understand the expectations and welcomes the expectations.”
Now McLellan will undertake the task of harnessing a team overwhelmed with potential, depth, talent and experience and pushing them to their full potential. The Melville, Saskatchewan native has already made contact with one of the Sharks players, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
“I had a chance to talk to Nabby this morning. I called him prior to the press conference to wish him luck at the awards tonight,” said McLellan. “It was a very good conversation. Nabby and I have one thing in common and that would be our experience in Cleveland and our connection to Jock Callander. I wished him well and that’s one person I’m very anxiously awaiting to meet.”
|Todd McLellan hoists the Stanley Cup as the assistant coach of the Detroit Red Wings on June 4, 2008. McLellan was hired by the San Jose Sharks on June 12, 2008. |
McLellan has a distant connection to Nabokov through Jock Callander, his assistant coach in Cleveland (IHL) and Houston (AHL). Callander and Nabokov played together in the 1999-00 season with the Cleveland Lumberjacks, where Nabokov played in 20 games as Callander was winding up his playing career. The following season, although Nabokov had moved on full-time to San Jose, McLellan joined the Lumberjacks as head coach and named Callander to his staff. The two continued the relationship when McLellan was named head coach of the Houston Aeros the following season.
It’s a small connection. But a good start.
During the press conference McLellan sounded confident and authentic describing his excitement about undertaking the head coaching position. It was refreshing and promising.
“I like the fact that there is a strong foundation here,” explained McLellan. “There are some other positions that are open in the League that don’t have a Patrick Marleau
or Joe Thornton
down the middle or Nabokov in goal. I do believe that the players here are extremely hungry right now and I think it’s my job to give them some guidance and leadership to get them over the hump.”
Now the Sharks have a coach that matches their character and offers them a fresh start. His genuine likeable personality should mesh well with the Sharks tight knit unit group of players. It sounds like Wilson has chosen the right man to get the Sharks to the finish line.
“There is an incredible amount of skill on this hockey team,” McLellan said. “And if you combine the skill with the will, a lot of good things can happen.”