During his April press conference to announce the Sharks and Todd McLellan had parted ways, Doug Wilson talked about his desire to build a complete coaching staff rather than focus solely on bringing in a new head coach. With Pete DeBoer now in the fold, it appears as though Wilson's coaching search has shifted to finding him the right assistants.
Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun reported this morning that the Maple Leafs have granted the Sharks permission to interview fired assistant coach Steve Spott while Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal mentioned a few days ago that Devils assistant Dave Barr will be in the mix for a position on DeBoer's staff.
Both candidates have connections to DeBoer. Spott was an assistant to DeBoer with Plymouth and Kitchener in the OHL before taking over as head coach of the Kitchener Rangers after DeBoer made the jump to the NHL. Barr served on DeBoer's staff throughout his tenure in New Jersey.
Spott replaced Dallas Eakins as head coach of the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs' AHL affiliate, for the 2013-14 season before joining Randy Carlyle's staff prior to this past year. He stayed on after Carlyle was fired and replaced by Peter Horachek midway through the season before eventually falling prey to the Leafs' end-of-year housecleaning. Spott ran Toronto's offense and power play this season with rather underwhelming results; the Leafs were 21st in 5-on-5 scoring and 26th on the power play. Still, almost nothing went right in a disastrous season for Toronto who largely spent the second half selling off veterans and preparing for a lengthy rebuild. Judging by this in-depth interview with Maple Leafs Hot Stove, Spott seems like a bright coach with some progressive ideas on running an offense.
Barr is the more intriguing name. The 54-year-old ran the Devils' power play in each of the past two seasons and had solid results; despite a forward corps thin on offensive talent and the lack of a legitimate quarterback on the back end, New Jersey finished in the top ten in power play efficiency in 2014-15. But it was Barr's work with the Devils penalty kill when he ran that unit from 2011-13 that was nothing short of extraordinary and should have people excited about the prospect of him joining the Sharks coaching staff.
Over that two-year span, New Jersey allowed fewer unblocked shot attempts and goals against per minute of 4-on-5 ice time than any other team in the league while also averaging an eye-popping two goals for per sixty minutes while shorthanded. To put that into perspective, four teams didn't even average two goals per sixty minutes at 5-on-5 this season, while the Sharks were barely above that mark in averaging 2.07 goals per sixty. Beyond the incredible numbers, perhaps Barr's greatest accomplishment as the Devils' penalty kill mastermind was turning Ilya Kovalchuk, notoriously one of the league's worst defensive forwards during his time in Atlanta, into a lethal penalty killer by the end of his Devils tenure.
There isn't much of a NHL track record to judge Spott on but bringing in Barr to fix a Sharks penalty kill that struggled mightily down the stretch this season would be a terrific move.