In his sophomore year as head coach, Todd McLellan doesn’t expect this year’s training camp to be any easier than last season’s.
As McLellan and his coaching staff prepared for the opening of camp on Sunday, the goal of finding his team amongst the 50-plus players remains the same from last year. Year two obviously brings a bit more calm to the situation (not to mention the new player in Dany Heatley).
“Things are a lot more familiar to us,” said McLellan, an Adams Trophy finalist in his debut season with the Sharks. “We know the players and we have a good idea of their tendencies. We know their personalities so we’ll know when they are carrying themselves properly.
“There are some changes that have to be made. We’re going to try different combinations. So, there’s still some stress that goes with it and obviously preparing the team is very important and that never changes from year to year.”
McLellan said that going into Sunday, he expected the team to institute their game plan from Day 1 of camp.
“As we head to training camp, there’s not going to be a lot of new ideas or thoughts thrown at the players. We’re going to establish our game the way we want to play it Day 1 of training camp and we’re going to continue to build on that,” said McLellan.
“When we have that down and it’s polished, then we’re going to be doing new things. I also believe that some of those new ideas, if you want to call them that, will occur when we have our group together and not when there are 60 players here.”
One thing that is for certain is the emerging roles and maturity of the “younger” players such as Joe Pavelski
, Ryane Clowe
and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
“I don’t necessarily like the term ‘younger.’ When you think of younger you think of growing pains and all that type of stuff. These players aren’t young anymore. Using the high school analogy – they’re freshmen and sophomores at this point and have to go up be juniors and possibility seniors.”
“There’s a large group of them with Pavelski, Clowe and Vlasic. That group of players has to close the gap from the Boyle’s, Thornton’s and Marleau’s. The lightning rods can’t always be those players; that second group of players has to assume more,” McLellan added.
With every training camp and the coming and going of players through trades and free agency, roster positions become available for up and coming players trying to establish themselves and earn a spot on the Sharks’ roster.
“We have lost a number of players. I think change at this point is good for us,” McLellan said.
General Manager Doug Wilson has named four defensemen in Derek Joslin, Jason Demers
, Mike Moore
and Nick Petrecki
who are expected to duke it out on the ice to fill a blueline position.
“It’s an exciting time to see not only those defensemen but also the forwards positions and goaltending battles,” McLellan. “The battles amongst the established teammates of who you’re going to play with and how many minutes you’re going to get. Everyone has to re-establish their equity from Day 1 on and I think that’s really good.”
McLellan has also included defensemen Mathieu Dandenault and Joe Callahan to the list of players battling for the two open d-man spots.
The second-year head coach said he will emphasize the fact that all players, rookies and the established veterans alike, are expected to earn their roles and minutes.
“A number of players we think are ready to graduate and play here,” said McLellan. “Some have played some games already or have been through the Worcester system. But for me to come out and say that they’ll be taking the jobs is really premature.
“They have to show us that they’re prepared. There are some players outside of our organization who have now become Sharks - those players we fully expect to come in and compete and get jobs. That’s what training camps for, it will sort itself out.”
To help him prepare for the upcoming season, in addition to his coaching staff of Trent Yawney and Jay Woodcroft, is Matt Shaw who replaces Todd Richards as assistant coach after Richards was named head coach of the Minnesota Wild.
Shaw will reunite with McLellan this season after spending the last two years on Jacques Lemaire’s staff in Minnesota. Shaw was an assistant to McLellan from 2001-05 with the Houston Aeros of the AHL.
“For the most part, the roles will be kept,” McLellan said. “Matt Shaw came in and assumes a lot of Todd’s responsibility. You’ll also see Jay Woodcroft on the bench in the third period. There’ll be some changes that way but as far as roles and how we’ll work as a staff, Matt will assume a lot of Todd’s responsibility.”