McLellan Should Be Commended For Injury Management

Heading into this season there were some concerns about Todd McLellan's ability to effectively manage his resources-- in his inaugural year behind the Sharks bench, key players were overplayed down the stretch, a decision that eventually contributed to the Sharks bowing out in six games to the Anaheim Ducks. Riddled with injuries in the second half of the season, McLellan allowed Evgeni Nabokov to dictate his own starts even though he was dealing with recurring hip issues, Iron Man Joe Thornton saw his ice time increase in the midst of a groin problem, and Patrick Marleau was saddled with heavy PK minutes with a tweaked knee. These coaching decisions came to a head for Marleau in the playoffs when, despite scoring two game winning goals for San Jose (a testament to his resiliency as a player, as well as a precursor to his resiliency as a human being after being viciously thrown under the bus this offseason), it was apparent that he was not functioning at the level he was capable of. Evgeni Nabokov also struggled mightily, posting a .890 SV%, the vast majority of these goals coming of the five hole variety-- a cardinal sin for professional goaltenders.

Thankfully, it seems as if McLellan has learned from these mistakes.

Between allowing Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, Jed Ortmeyer, Rob Blake, and Torrey Mitchell (among others) ample time to rehabilitate, you'd be hard pressed to find a case where a player has returned at much less than full-strength, dealing with the same ailments that put them on the sidelines in the first place.

The most recent example would be Sharks forward Manny Malhotra. Out for the previous six games of action, Malhotra returned last night to skate with linemates Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer. Despite a 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in the shootout, the line did an excellent job throwing their weight around on the forecheck, cycling down low, generating scoring opportunities, and keeping puck carriers to the outside in the defensive end. It was a typical night for the trio-- even the harshest critic would find it hard to cite a shift where it looked as if they were overmatched. Malhotra was a big part of that, pumping five shots towards the net (with three of them turned away by Tim Thomas, who looked excellent) and logging 15:46 of ice time.

While the high number of minutes Evgeni Nabokov and Dan Boyle have seen this season should be of concern to Sharks fans since both players will be attending the Winter Olympics in February, McLellan has found a groove when it comes to injury management in 2009-2010. And while the jury isn't out quite yet considering there remains a healthy chunk of games left to play, his track record thus far indicates that a conservative approach is one that he has adopted-- even if achieving the league's best record could be placed in jeopardy.

McLellan already has one of those on his head coaching resume; this year, he'll be under even more pressure to add a different, and more elusive, award. Continuing to effectively protect his assets will put him one step closer to achieving that goal.

So far, so good.

Go Sharks.