TMac's back, back in Teal and that's where he's going to stay, for at least one more season anyway.
After the Sharks abysmally early first season exit, many assumed Todd McLellan was on his way out the door. He was brought in to do one thing, and that was win a Cup. In four years, he has yet to accomplish this goal. He did manage to help Team Teal
get to the Conference Finals twice in back to back years, although that feat was sandwiched between two very early exits.
Part of the problem for McLellan is that anything short of the Finals (and I contend WINNING those Finals) is considered a failure.
Part of this comes from how and when TMac came into the Sharks organization. He was brought in on a high note, having just won the Cup with Detroit, and having a very solid winning record that promised a lot. Ron Wilson had just been given the boot after several consistent,
but largely disappointing, second round exits. The team didn't seem to want to play for him anymore, and it showed. Fans rode high
on the fact that TMac had won at every level he had coached for and hoped, perhaps even assumed that he would immediately lead the Sharks to a Cup.
It didn't work that way.
This year showcased many of the same issues that played the team last season; inconsistency, poor special teams play, lack of secondary scoring. Clearly something was amiss with the system, but it couldn't have been the only thing. I believe that TMac has a good sense for how the team should be playing, but translating that into a winning system is harder than it seems. It's a combination of many things, including personal buying in, your assistant coaches, and the guys you have on your team.
Take the blue line for example. Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle are to fairly solid D-men that compliment each other and make up for the others weaknesses. This season though, both seemed to have lost a step. How much does it hurt your team overall when your top defensive pair suddenly is playing like they should be your second or third?
Injuries plagued the Sharks, preventing many of them from ever hitting their stride. The PK was just awful. Passive and ineffective, it seemed more inclined to wait for the play to come to it rather than challenge aggressively before the opposing team crossed into the Sharks' zone. There was no neutral zone control at all. Passes were all over the place and no one seemed to be communicating
effectively night after night. Niemi started out alright but then struggled down the back half. Griess looked to e the saving grace in net, but he to faltered down the stretch.
All these issues seem to be more of a perfect storm of things happening all at once, rather than the results of one man. Team management seems to think so too, as they are supposedly giving Todd the green light, while potentially shuffling his assistant. It could be that his method was being executed or communicated well at the assistant level. Woodcroft might be brilliant on video ut not as good at the PK.
Matt Shaw was accused of being unemotional and disconnected during the time he filled in for an injured Todd McLellan. Perhaps the Sharks simply lackthe right combination of coaches behind the bench. Perhaps they need to shake up some of their now aging core and focus on growing their younger players. Perhaps winning it all isn't as easy as it looks.
Either way, I'm fine with the decision to keep TMac here in San Jose. I think he's a good coach with very good potential, but not everything has fully clicked yet. Look at a guy like Barry Trotz. He's taken how long to get his team to round 2 and Nashville has stood behind him. It's a combination of things that get your team to the promised land, not just one man. Hopefully, rounding out the bench with some fresh blood, a few trades and moves over the summer, and the Sharks will be sitting pretty to make a real run for th Cup in the 2012-2013 season.