Todd McLellan took it to his team following their 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. According to Kevin Kurz, the head coach gave a “good old-fashioned team tongue-lashing” that could be heard by “anyone who happened to be wandering the bowels of the Honda Center” before practice on Sunday. It was followed by a fierce, competitive practice that featured a lot of physical play.
Whatever message McLellan tried to send was not received. If you were looking for the after-effects of the coach’s lecture when the Sharks hit the ice Monday night, it wasn’t there for you to find. They had a brief advantage in terms of puck possession early in the game, but it was followed by a submission to the pressure of the Ducks. By the end of the first period it was tied 1-1 despite the Ducks out-chancing San Jose 5-2. All hell broke loose in the second, and by the end of the period it was 4-2 Anaheim with the Ducks out-chancing the Sharks 15-3.
Although Antti Niemi hasn’t been his usual “Vezina-quality” self lately, this loss doesn’t fall on him. The first goal came after San Jose attempted a pathetic line change and Jason Demers went after Brad Staubitz, leaving Marc-Edouard Vlasic all alone trying to defend two Ducks. Demers atoned with a goal with 52 seconds left in the first, but the defense didn’t get much better in the second.
Two judgement lapses left Niemi out to dry on back-to-back goals 34 seconds apart and McLellan was forced to use his timeout. He was livid on the bench, chewing out his entire team in hopes of inspiring something. San Jose responded with a goal from Patrick Marleau late in the second as well as another from Matt Irwin in the third, but the 13 minutes following the rally produced nothing. There were failed offensive entries, some defensive scrambles and, eventually, an empty-netter from Francois Beauchemin to seal the deal.
– Demers finally made it back into the lineup, but it meant a scratch for Justin Braun. Are these two allergic to each other or something? Another game has gone by with Douglas Murray and Brad Stuart together in the same pairing, and at this point it’s getting a little unfair for Stuart. He’s scrambling to save Murray’s bacon so often now, and it’s making his play look worse in the process. If the coaching staff insists on keeping Murray so be it, but pairing him with Vlasic makes more sense for everybody on the blue line.
– Thornton was awful. He has been the captain of this team since Rob Blake retired, so he’s captained teams that made it to back-to-back Conference Finals. He’s captained teams with much more fight in them than what this 2102-13 squad seems to have. What exactly the “C” on the sweater represents is open for speculation, and I’ve seen more fire from Thornton in the past. This year, it’s just not there. One would think setting the tone in a game like this is exactly why players are chosen to wear the “C.” Thornton may be the scoring leader, but he’s certainly not showing up when they need him.
– Stock continues to plummet on Joe Pavelski, who has been absent from the score sheet and completely ineffective for what feels like a year. Stock up on Patrick Marleau, who seems to be the only top-six forward scoring meaningful goals lately.
– It’s hard to watch the Sharks play lately and feel anything other than despair for the future of this season. They haven’t strung together two good games in a row for nearly two months, but they’ve certainly been able to put up two awful performances back-to-back. At 12-10-6, they now hold the 9th seed in the Western Conference, definitively out of playoff seeding.
– This team is due for a shake-up. McLellan has long outlasted my cry for a change behind the bench, but I can’t imagine his job is safe if this keeps up for too much longer. His message on Sunday wasn’t heard. If he wants to affect a change, he better do something bigger to affect these players, before Doug Wilson decides to do something himself.
– Wilson shouldn’t feel to good about his future with the Sharks either.