The San Jose Sharks announced they had come to a mutual decision to part ways with head coach Todd McLellan at 8:57 a.m. PDT Monday, April 20. The most interesting of his responses are include in the photo list captions and examined below in the context of the entire conference call at 10:00 a.m.
As always, McLellan was thoughtful and measured in his responses. In keeping with San Jose’s tight-lipped approach, not much he said was telling nor surprising.
The news itself was not surprising. It was predicted here that McLellan would not return to the Sharks, and he had already been linked to other teams, such as the Philadelphia Flyers according CSNPhilly.com last week.
With so many reporters on the line, McLellan decided to start with a statement designed to answer some of the questions and no doubt provide a direction for the conference call. That began with declaring it an emotional day, and the mutual respect for and from the franchise was apparent.
McLellan thanked the various owners over his tenure for the opportunity to be head coach for the first time, specific assistant coaches for their efforts and the players in general. He repeatedly mentioned how he has loved coaching in San Jose for passionate fans and a community his family feels a part of.
In fact, he indicated a new coaching opportunity might mean time apart. zoomdune.com was unable to confirm that his family would stay behind with any move he made, but he did confirm that he wants to coach again immediately.
Why now? After having a talk with management, he felt the time was right. The only elaboration he made was that the Sharks are clearly in a rebuild, but he would not say whether he would look for another opportunity among playoff-ready teams or consider coaching a team that is rebuilding. With the Edmonton Oilers winning the NHL draft lottery, they became a specific team mentioned but McLellan did not bite, only nibble in acknowledging Connor McDavid would be a thrill for anyone to coach.
When asked by Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News whether the decision was indeed mutual rather than a misrepresentation like the San Francisco 49ers gave regarding Jim Harbaugh, McLellan said something that said little outwardly but allowed for much reading between the lines:
No, I participated in the decision—I definitely did. …I will keep those conversations private.
It was evident in that comment that it was not truly his choice—perhaps he was asked to do something he would not (play young guys over veterans?) or wanted some authority San Jose general manager Doug Wilson was not willing to give (an extension that he said was never offered?). Nevertheless, he could not have been clearer that there was some mutual agreement that it was best to go separate ways.
His relationships with Edmonton’s Craig MacTavish, Brendan Shanahan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings in general were talked about in length, but it is apparent he has received no offers. However, most of the questions were about the Sharks. Many he did not answer, stating it was a more appropriate question for those remaining with the team.
He did confirm they are a team that needs to make changes, but one with savvy, seasoned veterans and up-and-coming talent. He also reaffirmed he has “a ton of respect” for Joe Thornton, who he described as a tremendous player with incredible passion.
He did admit in separate occasions that the team should have made the Stanley Cup playoffs. When he said having the best players does not always mean having the best team and it is about the culture a team has, zoomdune.com was unable to get confirmation of what those culture problems were or why else San Jose was not getting over the hump.
The biggest question that was not posed during the conference call was if his frustrations at not being able to get messages through that began some 12 months ago were part of the reason for his decision, if he felt he could reach another dressing room or if another coach might be able to reach the Sharks. It is unlikely he would have given anything of note anyway, as he redirected most questions about this team to those remaining a part of it.
McLellan may be able to take the next step somewhere else. San Jose clearly appreciates everything he was able to accomplish there, and Wilson released a statement of genuine appreciation:
I want to thank Todd and his staff for their years of service to the San Jose Sharks organization. Sometimes a change is best for all parties involved but nothing will take away from what Todd and his staff accomplished here over the last seven seasons.