In case you haven’t heard, Todd McClellan’s seat as head coach has been getting warmer with each subsequent struggle. After the Sharks started out the season 7-0-0, expectations were high. Then when the Sharks took their season in the exact opposite direction, people were understandably worried. But the disappointments of this season are not McClellan’s fault.
Let me say that again. The disappointments from this season are not Todd McClellan’s fault.
Since coming on as head coach in 2008, he has led the Sharks to a President’s Trophy, turned Joe Thornton (along with Pavelski and Couture) into dangerous 2-way players, and gotten his team into the playoffs every season he’s been on board.
And sure, the Sharks have had some struggles recently, but you can’t pinpoint that on McClellan. The lockout forced players to either play overseas, or stay home and work out on their own. Some guys came in fit and fresh, in game shape, and others, well, were Scott Gomez. There was a shortened training camp, in which the coaches didn’t have much time to work with their guys. The initial success of this team coming out of the gate should be a testament to the success of the system in place, not a criticism. Guys who were used to playing together in the system were able to score goals. It’s as simple as that.
Things have cooled down since then, but can you really put the blame on TMac?
General Manager Doug Wilson, has turned this team into a group of slow, uninspired passers with a focus on defense, instead of the high-scoring Sharks teams of the past. He traded away pure scorers in Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to the Wild for playmakers Brent Burns and Martin Havlat. Hindsight is 20/20, but let’s look at the facts: DW shipped out two of the Sharks top five goal scorers from that 2011 team that lost to Vancouver in the Western Conference Finals. It’s hard not to see how the Sharks are struggling to score goals right now.
But the players aren’t off the hook here. Many games this season, guys have looked listless, uninspired, and really just not interested in being at the rink. It’s like watching Peter Gibbons from Office Space.
Joe Thornton is playing well enough, sure. But as captain of this team, he’s got to energize the troops and show them that he is willing to lay it all out on the ice each and every game. We saw that against Dallas when he fought Jamie Benn, and I’d like to see it in other ways that don’t involve hanging out in the penalty box.
Joe Pavelski on the other hand, has been showing fight in ways that translate on the goal sheet. In his goal against Nashville, he challenged defensemen, fought hard along the boards, forced his way into the blue paint, and was rewarded by sneaking one past Pekka Rinne. That is the kind of fight this Sharks team needs, not the five-minute-major variety.
There are more issues on this roster that I won’t get into here (Clowe and Havlat for one), but let’s face it, this is still a top-tier team. I think moving McClellan would be a mistake and actually hurt this team’s chance at getting better, and I think DW knows that. This isn’t a Terry Murray for Daryl Sutter switch we’re talking about here. The Sharks have one of the most successful coaches in the league, the players believe in him, and he believes in them.
It’s time for us now, as Sharks fans, to fight for our team, and our coach. Let’s go Sharks.