Thread: Speculation: Fire Todd Mclellan
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03-21-2012, 09:57 AM
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As much as Ive knocked on a former Sharks blogger who happens to be a member here, he happened to write one article that was 100% spot on, and its pretty funny that over a year later, absolutely nothing has changed with Todd McLellan and the Sharks since then. Amazing how the set pieces always tend to repeat themselves.


It doesn't matter what team or town you're discussing, you'll always find at least a handful of grumpy fans out there who want to fire the coach. It's a pretty small group in Anaheim, a sizable majority in San Jose, and the entire fan base in Toronto. So, with the San Jose Sharks riding a four-game losing streak and enduring their worst season since the NHL lockout, it’s ironic that the team’s last coaching casualty (Ron Wilson) arrives in town tonight to face its next coaching casualty (Todd McLellan). It’s also amazing to see how much McLellan has come to resemble his predecessor this season.

It seems no matter the problem, the immediate solution is to fire the coach. The power play can't score a cold at the free health clinic? Fire the coach. We haven't won a Cup since “Good Times” was on the air? Fire the coach. Niclas Wallin's on the blueline? Fire the coach. It seems the more losses a team endures, the more amateur psychologists they have filling the rink and clogging message boards demanding that the coach hit the bricks. However, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Wilson could see the writing on the wall long before the ax fell, and McLellan has to see the same thing nearly three years later.

If teams fail to meet expectations the coach takes the blame right along with the players. That’s one of many areas where McLellan has fallen short this season, mirroring the defiant stance Wilson took during his final days behind the Sharks bench. Remember how McLellan would take blame during his first season in San Jose? Remember how refreshing it was to hear a coach admit that he’d made mistakes? Turns out that was a crock of crap, because McLellan hasn’t taken any personal responsibility for his team’s misfortune this season. It’s awfully easy to shoulder some blame when you’re riding high on the hog, but a person’s true character reveals itself when times are tough.

The way I see it, a coach has three primary responsibilities: to instruct, prepare and motivate. By the end of his time in San Jose, either because the players had tuned him out or he’d simply overstayed his welcome, Wilson had lost his ability to effectively do all three of those things. We’re seeing the same thing from McLellan this season, with the same disappointing results as the Sharks stumble past the midway point of the season.

Instruct - Baseball players rarely admit they have anything to learn, they're just working their way in and out of slumps. Football players rarely admit fault, they're just looking forward to a better effort next week. I’ve always enjoyed talking to hockey players more than any other athletes, because even superstars will freely admit they're always learning the game, trying to find ways to improve. It’s that humility and respect for the game that separate the great from the good, the legendary from the merely laudable. NHL coaches are constantly teaching new tactics and techniques, whether it's positioning, faceoffs, shooting, awareness, etc.

It's amazing how much instruction takes place between players and coaches. Players don't progress and improve by hitting the ice and smacking a few pucks around. If a player makes a 40-point improvement from one season to the next it's usually the result of a coach's training and instruction. This is one of the hardest areas for fans to judge a coach's impact on the team. However, McLellan’s ineffectiveness has been plain to see this season. Not only have several Sharks players failed to progress, but they’ve fallen into bad habits that are reflected on the scoreboard and the stat sheet.

Nobody had an answer on Thursday night when the Sharks put 36 shots on Ryan Miller without a goal. Resembling yours truly sitting in front of his last political science exam, Dan Boyle could only shake his head and repeat “I don’t know” when asked why the Sharks couldn’t put one of 37 shots past Jonas Hiller on Sunday night. And McLellan, the one man who should have the answers, doesn’t have a clue what he can do to help the Sharks out of their scoring slump. Like Wilson before him, a failure to instruct is contributing to McLellan’s demise.

Prepare - Coaching extends much further than filling out the lineup, throwing a suit on and tying a Windsor knot. Great coaches prepare their teams to win by addressing needs and making sure the team is ready to compete. Not expecting the team to be ready, not hoping they’ll decide to show up, but doing whatever is in a coach’s power to ensure that his team will show up ready to compete. It goes right down to the set plays and alignments, making sure he gets the best results from the players on the ice. A coach also has to make sure he's putting the best matchups on the ice, shifting lines and adjusting to the opposition.

We can all remember situations when a coach had the wrong players on the ice in a crucial situation or made some other mistake that led to a loss. Viktor Tikhnov pulling Tretiak after the first period? Bad idea. Don Cherry's too many men call with two minutes remaining in Game 7? Bad move. Exceptionally bad decisions can only increase a coach's likelihood of getting the ax. Take McLellan’s response to the Ducks on Sunday. After seeing 27 shots were turned away after 40 minutes, did the coach change things up and make adjustments to counter Anaheim’s defense? Nope. The message was simple and ineffective: Keep shooting and hope for the best.

That lack of preparation helps explain the Sharks’ poor starts this season. San Jose has given up the first goal in eight of their last nine games, something McLellan has refused to take accountability for, and those slow starts have crippled the team’s confidence lately. Sure there’s enough blame to spread evenly on some whole-wheat bread and feed to the multitudes, but the coach has to be the one front and center, taking the heat in good times and bad. Passing the buck and blaming players for the ills of the entire teams seems like something lifted right out of Wilson’s playbook, yet those self-preservation tactics have become common from McLellan this season.

Motivate - Every coach is trying to get the most out of his players, motivating them through a variety of methods. Actually, we need to amend that last statement, because apparently every coach but McLellan feels that’s part of his job description. Perhaps that helps to explain the lack of accountability or discipline on McLellan’s part. I know you’re thinking that motivation should come easy for most NHL players. If huge paychecks, personal pride, and a legion of loyal fans won't do it, what are the chances a couple terse words and a kick in the pants will? Every player needs to be held accountable, even if it comes from an ill-tempered coach who has the ability to staple him to the bench.

Of course, Wilson found out the hard way what happens when you fail to instruct, prepare or motivate. Now he’s coaching a team in Toronto with half the talent and double the pressure to succeed – and by succeed I mean dig itself out of the NHL draft lottery. Wilson stubbornly stated his inculpability before, during and after he was terminated as head coach of the Sharks. It’s ironic that the man returning to San Jose tonight would be welcomed back with open arms by many Shark fans who feel he’d be a significant upgrade over the team’s current bench boss. There’s still time for McLellan to start instructing, preparing and motivating his forlorn team, but he’d be wise to polish up his resume.

Last edited by Bizz06: 03-21-2012 at 11:39 AM. Reason: just copypasted the bulk of the article
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