San Jose’s new assistant coaches are ready to get to work. One of them, Trent Yawney, is as ready as anyone.
The former Blackhawks head coach had the luxury of catching up with his family in Chicago this past season, but he’s excited to return to the coaching lifestyle, which includes late night travels, early morning practices and watching lots of scouting video.
Yawney has been living in the Windy City and will be moving to Silicon Valley, However, first and foremost, he’s a proud product of Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan.
“I grew up there and left when I was 15 for Saskatoon (for junior hockey),” Yawney said. “My mom and dad and my wife’s mom still live in Hudson Bay.”
Due to his family and a desire to give back, Yawney has returned back home virtually every summer.
“I had a hockey school there for about 15 years and I got to go back and kill two birds with one stone,” Yawney said. “This year, we had conflicts so it didn’t happen.”
Hudson Bay (population of around 1,600) has previously produced one other NHLer, but Yawney hopes more can follow.
“We’re hoping someone else will find their way,” Yawney said.
Yawney’s recent time in Chicago since his departure from the Blackhawks has been a personal boom.
“I had other opportunities (before the Sharks) after I was let go, but I elected to stay with my family and get some rest and relaxation,” Yawney said. “I’ve been home the last couple of seasons and I think they want to see me back on the road.”
All joking aside, Yawney had opportunities to immediately return to the NHL, but he wanted to select a strong situation.
“This was a real no-brainer,” Yawney said. “I was glad to be given the opportunity. It’s one of the elite teams in the league. The team is big and strong with a lot of speed.”
As everyone knows, the potential is there, but there’s plenty of work to be done.
“We’ll need them playing more as a team instead of relying on individuals to get us over the top,” Yawney said.
As a former NHL blueliner with Chicago, Calgary and St. Louis, Yawney will work directly with the Sharks backend.
“I’ll be with the defensemen and have a little say in the penalty kill,” Yawney said.
The Sharks on-ice talent was a key ingredient of Yawney’s interest in San Jose, but so were his personal ties to San Jose’s Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson and new Head Coach Todd McLellan.
Wilson and Yawney were teammates in Chicago.
“Knowing Doug and (wife) Kathy, they’ve always been first class,” Yawney said. “Doug and I were teammates and he went into the management side and I went to coaching in the minors. He and some other players showed me the ropes and how to be a pro. If I had a question, I could always ask Doug.”
As for Yawney’s immediate boss, he and McLellan go back to their junior days with the Saskatoon Blades. They’ve also coached against each other in the pro game.
“Todd and I coached against each other in the minors and when he won the Calder Cup, they beat us,” Yawney said of their 2003 American Hockey League playoff series between his Norfolk Admirals and McLellan’s Houston Aeros. “Todd was always a bright hockey mind and it’s not surprising to see where he ended up.”
As for why he went the coaching route, Yawney didn’t have an easy answer.
“Once you coach, you always want to coach,” Yawney said. “It’s having a relationship with people and getting them to do what they don’t want to do in order to become what they want to become.”
Coaching also is, literally and figuratively, as close to the action as a former player can get.
“I scouted for a year, but ultimately I missed the competitiveness,” Yawney said. “As a coach, you’re as close to being a player as you can be.”
With regards to whom he’s coaching on the blueline, Yawney likes the entire Sharks defensive corps, but was impressed with management’s recent additions in Dan Boyle
and Rob Blake.
“If you look at the history, the teams that have won the Cup have one to two studs on the blueline,” Yawney said as he referred to recent winner Detroit and 2007 winner Anaheim. “Blake and Boyle have won and they will be able to help out the other five.”
And the goal is to add the Sharks to that list of Cup winners.