Note: I resume the series of articles on first evaluating Todd McLellan's culpability for the disappointing 2011-12 San Jose Sharks season. I had suspended it to cover the end of the first round and set-up for the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs that the Sharks should be in.
A coach's approach to the game sets the tone in the dressing room, on the bench and during play. After that, the most important thing a coach can bring to the table is a tactical advantage.
The San Jose Sharks hired Todd McLellan because he came out of the one the most successful franchises and systems, the Detroit Red Wings.
He was supposed to boost the Sharks offence, particularly on the power play. His high-volume puck possession attack was going to allow San Jose to take over the tempo of games.
It worked. In his first year, the Sharks won the President's Trophy. In the two that followed, they were top-two seeds who made it to the Western Conference Finals.
McLellan proved his tactical contribution and system were a success.
But they were also a failure. Despite some of the best offensive talent in the NHL, the scoring would always drop off from the regular season to the playoffs even as the league average went up. The Sharks inevitably could not win those low-scoring affairs, and GM Doug Wilson decided to alter the team's makeup into a defensive one.
This could also have been the right move because McLellan worked under Jacques Lemaire. But apparently McLellan was a better offensive mind than a defensive one, and ran a better regular season offence than a post-season one.
That is unacceptable. Even more unacceptable is the very good penalty kill that he, well, killed.
The year before he took over the team, San Jose was the best penalty kill in the NHL. Then they fell to fifth over the next two seasons and were sitting at 10th at the end of the 2010 calendar year.
They played worse than any other team over the next season and a half, falling in the bottom quarter of the league by the end of last season and being second-worst over this one. Wilson acknowledged that this affected the team's ability to be as aggressive as they wanted to be.
Thus, McLellan offers a mixed bag in then system he teaches. While some of the results were very good, he has fallen short of Sharks expectations (at least a conference title) in one the most important coach's responsibilities.