Ron Wilson Fired: 5 Reasons Todd McLellan May Be Next
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They scored just 24 goals (2.18 per game) over that stretch and allowed 45 (4.09). In a league where the magic number is three, they scored that many in just five games and allowed that many in nine.
He was replaced by Randy Carlyle, who was fired by Anaheim in the first half of the season. But it may be the man who replaced Wilson in San Jose back in 2008 that is next to go.
But why would the Sharks fire a coach that has made it to the Western Conference Finals two years in a row and has the best regular season record in the league since taking over?
Colin White Keeps Playing
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Colin White's play is far from the biggest problem on the San Jose Sharks this season. But it is the most easily corrected and the least excusable for lingering.
Far too often, opposing teams are celebrating goals when he is on the ice. Yet he continues to receive playing time over Jim Vandermeer.
White has only four points and is a minus-six on the season (second worst on the team). But, as a stay-at-home defenceman, that in and of itself is not bad—you are not expected to score, and you tend to be on the ice in situations where the other team can score.
However, a look at the defensive stats shows that he is tied for 18th in takeaways while being tied for the ninth-most giveaways.
Defencemen often have an imbalance of those stats—the blue line is more contested than deep in the zone on offence and getting the puck out of the zone under pressure is harder than advancing it as a forward.
But only four players are worse than his minus-15 differential—Ryane Clowe, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic—who are much more relied on for minutes and to advance the puck.
As a stay-at-home guy, you want to see him high in hits and blocked shots, but he is not exceptional in either. His 48 hits in 44 games are tied for 12th on the team, and his 78 blocked shots are fifth, ahead of only Justin Braun and Jason Demers, who have more minutes on the blue line.
Lack of Will, Focus and Work Ethic
After Todd McLellan's first season as head coach of the San Jose Sharks, Doug Wilson talked about the need for the team to battle harder in front of the net as one of the reasons for the team's first-round exit.
After making the trades at this year's deadline, he talked about wanting the energy and work ethic of the players he picked up to rub off on the rest of the team. Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton acknowledged to the San Jose Mercury News that the team often cheats or relies too much on their talent.
The Sharks frequently start games slow and let up when they have a lead. They go through stretches where they try to make the pretty play instead of the fundamentally sound one, like getting pucks deep. They fall victim to high turnovers that cost them goals in games they would otherwise win.
In other words, four seasons with the team, McLellan has been unable to correct this behaviour.
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When Ron Wilson coached the San Jose Sharks, they were consistently $10 million or more per year under the top-spending teams in the league. Only at the end of his last season, when Doug Wilson traded for Brian Campbell, did they have top-tier talent on their payroll.
The Sharks tried to pass off Jonathan Cheechoo, Nils Ekman, Steve Bernier, Alyn McCauley and Mark Bell as top-six forwards under Wilson. They used Scott Hannan, Tom Preissing, Craig Rivet, Kyle McLaren and a young and immature (in more ways than one) Christian Ehrhoff as key players on the blue line.
Todd McLellan has coached teams that are consistently tight against the salary cap. (This year few teams are, but the Sharks are 13th at over $61 million.) He has had legitimate top-six forwards play on the third line and a deep and talented blue line that was arguably the best in the game during his first season.
But Wilson's record in the playoffs with the Sharks was 28-24 while McLellan's is 19-19. Mac has one more conference finals appearance but also one more first-round exit. That is unacceptable considering the talent upgrade.
Of course, McLellan need only go 9-5 this season to match Wilson's record. If he somehow gets nine wins with this flawed team, he should not and will not be fired. But with Vancouver, Nashville, Detroit and even St. Louis clearly better than San Jose, a third straight conference finals appearance seems unlikely.
Sharks Are Regressing
Instead of getting closer to Lord Stanley's Cup, the San Jose Sharks are losing ground each season under Todd McLellan.
In 2009 they had their best chance, finishing the regular season with the best record in the NHL. They lost in the first round in six games to the Anaheim Ducks, and the series was not even as close as that would seem.
In 2010, they finished with the best record in the Western Conference. They got through the first round in six games and knifed through the two-time defending conference champion Detroit Red Wings in five.
Then they were swept by the Chicago Blackhawks, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. They were in all four games, no more than a goal down in the third period, but were done in by the Hawks' superior play in front of and in net.
Last season, the Sharks finished second in the West. They needed six games in the first round again, but seven to get past the Wings in the second. They did win a game in the conference finals, but were not competitive in two of their four losses.
This season, they may not even win the Pacific Division. In fact, they are two games away from missing the playoffs altogether. At best, they will finish third in the conference and could be considered its fourth-best team.
McLellan talks about the process, but I always assumed that the team was supposed to progress, not regress.
Doug Wilson Is on the Hot Seat
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Doug Wilson is one of two general managers in the league to have seven straight playoff appearances. He is one of two with four straight division titles.
He is the only one with both and the most likely to repeat as a division champ. Those results place him squarely as the best GM not to win the Cup—or the eighth-best in the NHL.
But with all the talent this team has had, the only constant over his eight seasons (including this one) at the helm is Patrick Marleau. Every other player and coach on the team was signed by him and even Marleau was re-signed.
Thus, there is no one else to blame for the aforementioned problems. If Wilson is moving this team in the wrong direction and does not make a change, the team may replace him. A new GM will likely want his own choice as head coach.
In other words, one way or another McLellan must produce or find a new home. At the very least, he needs his team to make a good showing the rest of the way and fight its way deep into the second round.