Last week we said the Sharks were like the movie “Highlander” between Todd McLellan, Joe Thornton and Doug Wilson.
In that case, McLellan, now the former head coach, got his head chopped off, and it’s between Thornton, the superstar player, and Wilson, the general manager, to duke it out for “The Prize.” Because in this case with the Sharks, in the end “there can be only one” guy remaining out of this trio. So, McLellan is Sunda Kastagir – the guy who loses before the final showdown between Connor MacLeod and the Kurgan.
On McLellan’s conference call, he was already getting questions about possibly coaching Connor McDavid with Edmonton and his relationship with Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
McLellan will find a new job, and it will happen quickly. He is this summer’s Barry Trotz. He gets to leave a less enviable position for a more desirable spot. It’s still amazing to me that San Jose is considered that much of a mess. That place was the ‘it’ location in the NHL for so long.
As for the Sharks, this is the first step in … who knows what. There’s still a majorly fractured situation between Thornton and Wilson. Thornton has a no-trade clause. Wilson won’t ask him to waive it. The two can’t coexist. Ugh.
We asked McLellan about this on his teleconference Monday.
“Those are questions, the repair work, those are questions for the group that’s here. I can tell you, and til my last breath, I have a ton of respect for Joe Thornton,” McLellan said, predictably not taking any level of bait Thornton left for him in his goodbye interview. “As far as the repair work, that’s for Jumbo and Doug and whoever else to talk about. I would like the world to know that I have a ton of respect for this guy (Thornton).”
If you’re not the guy making the change, you’re the one being changed. And as CSN Bay Area’s Ray Ratto shows, this wasn’t a mutual parting of ways with McLellan. It was indeed a firing.
Meanwhile, Doug Wilson now gets to do something he hasn’t had to do in more than a decade — redefine the franchise. His stance on the benefits of incremental change has to change, as the evidence that this team has dead-ended itself is now too overwhelming to ignore or wallpaper.
According to the San Jose Mercury News’ David Pollak, Wilson hasn’t been assured a return next season.
Question. Do you want the guy who helped cause this mess with a contending team responsible for solving the problem?
There is precedence – David Poile was able to dig himself out of two straight non-playoff years (and contract debacles with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter) with Nashville. Now the Predators are back in the postseason and seem set up for a more sustainable future. General managers tend to have stronger plans than we give them credit – at least some of them do.
Does a new coach change any problems? Not in San Jose, where this past year has not added up.
The pieces are there. Even if Thornton and Patrick Marleau are aging, they’re still effective. Expect 30-plus goals from Joe Pavelski again and Logan Couture to be solid. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns are both good assets on the blueline. Lose Antti Niemi’s contract – though Wilson didn’t deal him at the trade deadline when he could have grabbed a piece for him – use it somewhere else. Hey you’re not in bad shape!
But is Wilson really the guy to do this? He should be praised – and deservedly so – for helping turn San Jose into a destination for players.
Buffalo says it’s Hockey Heaven and Detroit calls itself Hockeytown. But how about playing in front of a packed building one day, then going hiking in the redwood forest the next, or hitting up the beach? Remember Joe Pavelski on a putting green in the dead of winter in shorts in the EPIX Road to the Stadium Series shows? As someone who has been to San Jose, it’s a great mix of a passionate hockey fanbase and laidback lifestyle.
We’ve heaped blame on Wilson a lot on this blog plenty for the disjointed state of a team that really should be better. McLellan said the team was “clearly in a rebuild” even though you can seriously beg to differ. No team with a still effective Thornton, Pavelski, Couture, Marleau, Burns or Vlasic is in a rebuild.
Nice to see McLellan sticking with Wilson’s message on the way out the door. Guess this was part of the mutual ‘see ya laters’ between the two.
They’re still a few moves away, not a full team-wide destruction. One day they’ll realize this. If not, it’s too late for the Sharks … and for no good reason.
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