With a performance down at Staples Center not unlike many other disappointing performances, the roller-coaster that was the Sharks 2014-15 campaign has finally drawn to a close.
Now a couple days removed from their disappointing — that word was used an awful lot this season — finale, the attention turns to another summer where changes are greatly needed. While the action on South Bay ice has halted for the next few months, the activity off of it isn’t going to stop. A complete overhaul of the team a la the Toronto Maple Leafs probably isn’t in the cards, although there is going to be movement in the ranks in the time leading up to training camp in September. All of that starts this week as we wait to hear the fate of head coach Todd McLellan.
To reiterate the basics, although many of you probably know them quite well: McLellan has one year left on his contract in San Jose, a seven-season stint highlighted by a 311-163-66 career coaching record spanning over various levels in the hockey spectrum. He became the second-fastest coach in NHL league history to reach 300 wins on February 13, however that marker was more than overshadowed by that dismal month of losses that effectively booted the Sharks out of playoff contention.
Granted, every time something has gone wrong during McLellan’s tenure behind Team Teal’s bench, there have been whispers that his job might be in jeopardy. But with the Sharks missing the playoffs for the first time under his regime and signs that the team hasn’t gotten over their issues from the end of last season, there is a more likely case of McLellan being shown the door.
The argument as to how much the Sharks success, or lack thereof, is McLellan’s doing is hotly debated. While changes certainly need to be made before the next hockey season, McLellan is widely believed to not be the problem that needs to be rectified. A big part of the change has to do with how much faith majority owner Hasso Plattner has in GM Doug Wilson’s “rebuild” and whether McLellan will subsequently end up taking the fall for this first season of rebuild being such a downer. (Wilson is a whole other issue, given that the war of words between him and former captain Joe Thornton appears to have continued since last offseason. But that’s a topic for another day.) Hopefully the work McLellan put in at such a pivotal time for the team isn’t so quickly overlooked.
From the perspective of someone who has gone to games and has way too much game audio to go back and pore over: I go back to a something the coach said after the Sharks’ shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins when talking addressing the team’s habit of getting into an early hole or giving up an early lead:
“We talked between periods about ‘Let’s play. Let’s not wait for something bad to happen.'”
It isn’t the first time we have heard that this discussion took place during a game. Having to reiterate such a message during a game in March sounds like the issue of messages from the coaching staff resonating with some of the players is still a problem. Plus it’s a an issue that plagued the Sharks before, during seasons like the last one when the Sharks did make the playoffs and couldn’t keep their feet — excuse me, skates — on the gas. Heck, if what McLellan saying isn’t getting through to the bulk of the team, maybe he would rather take his coaching skill set elsewhere.
Which brings us to the postponed locker cleanout. The Sharks aren’t closing up shop for the offseason until Wednesday, a ways out considering that San Jose’s season ended back on Saturday afternoon down in Los Angeles. Over the next few days, McLellan told the media, he will be sitting down with his family to do his “own personal review.” It sounds as though McLellan is being given the opportunity to have a hand in his own fate, and to see what is best for his family, instead of simply getting ousted.
Of course, we won’t know for sure until Wilson addresses the media on Wednesday. So the sit-and-wait game at the start of another long and arduous offseason commences.