It certainly made for an interesting storyline that San Jose Sharks head coach hire Peter DeBoer’s most recent coaching gig was served behind the bench for Team Canada at the World Championships as an assistant to former Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
But DeBoer insisted in the his first meeting with the Bay Area media on Thursday that he “purposely didn’t ask a lot of questions” of McLellan, and was coming into San Jose’s coaching position prepared to form his own ideas and implement his own coaching style.
“I started to do a little background with Todd on the organization,” DeBoer admitted when asked about picking McLellan’s brain during their recent coaching stint. “But I made a conscious effort–it’s like not opening up a box on Christmas. You want to ask as many questions as you can, but you force yourself not to. I didn’t want to go in with preconceived notions of this group. I want to be clear and clean, and give everyone a clear, clean slate.”
The phrase “clean slate” was the term du jour on Thursday. DeBoer — who has a career record of 217-200-77 and took the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012 — stressed how eager he is to put that coach’s hat on as the Sharks continue to go through the offseason with a lot of questions about the team’s makeup and mentality still unanswered.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and get to work with this group,” he said, adding that he has limited experience with the players on the current roster. “Everybody gets a fresh, clean slate, and I think that’s the way it should be, when you go through a tough year like last year. I think that’s what the players want, and I think that’s the benefit of having a new coach is that you can provide that.”
“I like his mindset,” general manager Doug Wilson said of the new hire. “He’s curious, he’s creative, he’s hard, he’s fair. The things that we really think fit this organization.”
Granted, part of that excitement could get to work comes from DeBoer’s own 2014-2015 campaign being cut short. He was fired by the Devils back in December of 2014, cutting into his fourth season behind New Jersey’s bench.
“My wife, she’s ready for me to get out of the house,” he chuckled, recalling that it was about a month before he could watch an NHL game again. “When you go through something like that, you have a bad taste in your mouth. You want to get right back on the horse — and I think that Doug giving me the opportunity to do that right away is something I have been waiting for since I got fired in New Jersey.”
He will put to the test almost immediately, even with training camp still a couple months away. Questions regarding the captaincy and the aging core of the team were asked more than once during Thursday’s meeting.
According to Wilson, DeBoer will be trusted to make those big decisions. “Peter and I have talked about several things,” the GM said when asked whether DeBoer would have the responsibility of putting the “C” on someone’s sweater. “He will be making those decisions. And he is not only up for the task, but looking forward to it.”
Of course this could all just be introductory press conference pleasantry. DeBoer is hungry to start get back to work, and the Sharks’ team culture needs a fresh face to help it muddle through and get away from issues still lingering from seasons past. For the time being, however, DeBoer doesn’t seem to have any reservations about getting the Sharks back on a winning path.
“I think if enter if you enter the San Jose Sharks organization, like I am as a head coach, I think the expectation is to win right now,” DeBoer said emphatically. “There is a tradition here of winning, and of challenging to go deep into the playoffs. That’s my expectation, that’s Doug’s expectation. I don’t think anyone is looking for anything less than that here.”