McLellan's job is safe but roster changes are coming
Head coach Todd McLellan and GM Doug Wilson will remain at the helm for at least another season.
For the first time since cleaning out their lockers in the aftermath of the team's elimination from the playoffs, the Sharks broke their cone of silence. Majority owner Hasso Plattner issued the following statement to the media:
"I am very disappointed in the way our team finished the 2013-14 season. Gaining a 3-0 series advantage and being unable to advance is a major blow to our organization and fan base. Our teams have been consistently built to go deep into the playoffs and this goal won't change.
Doug Wilson and I have met over the past two weeks. He has shared his support of the coaching staff, as well as his recommended changes to our team's roster, and he has my complete support moving forward.
I want to thank our extremely loyal fans and partners for their continued support and to let them know that we are not satisfied with the status quo of the last several seasons.
I am confident that with the proposed changes, Doug and his staff will build a team we can all be proud of."
There's nothing groundbreaking or surprising here but it's at least an official confirmation that Todd McLellan's job is safe despite the team's postseason collapse, as it should be. Don't get me wrong, McLellan deserves his share of blame for the series loss. Playing Mike Brown over Marty Havlat or Tyler Kennedy for six of seven games was ill-advised as was continuing to deploy James Sheppard as his third-line center when the Sharks' best moments of the series (and, really, best moments of the past four seasons) came with Joe Pavelski in that spot. It also shouldn't have taken until an injury to Marc-Edouard Vlasic for Matt Irwin to draw into the lineup on defense. While it's certainly debatable whether those changes would have salvaged the series for San Jose, it's tough to argue McLellan's lineup decisions gave his team the best possible chance to win.
But the fact of the matter is every head coach in the league, even the best ones, have their quirks when it comes to personnel usage. Just last night a Cup-winner, granted one who isn't likely to stay employed for long, played Tanner Glass on his third line over Beau Bennett in a Game 7. Hours later, a different coach with a pair of rings had the rotting corpse of Michal Handzus center his second line, played Sheldon Brookbank over Michal Rozsival and would have had facepuncher Brandon Bollig in the lineup over someone who can actually play hockey were Bollig not serving a two-game suspension. McLellan's mistakes may not be excusable but they're par for the course in the NHL. The odds of finding a coach who will not only deploy an optimal lineup on a nightly basis but is capable of running systems as effective as McLellan's are slim. When it comes to firing McLellan or trading Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, the follow-up question should always be the same: who do you plan to replace them with? I'm not convinced a realistic replacement in any of the three cases is likely to improve the team in the short term.
And it's clear from Plattner's statement that the team is still aiming to win in the short term. Roster changes are certainly coming (which was more or less a given anyway with Dan Boyle's contract expiring) but they're more likely to involve an influx of players who can help in the present tense than futures. As we discussed after the Game 7 loss, the Sharks will still be a Cup contender next season barring a massive overreaction. They've managed to avoid that behind the bench, but the real proof will be evident in how they deal with the roster.