The San Jose Sharks hired Larry Robinson to help the penalty kill
The San Jose Sharks are the only consistent Stanley Cup contender that has never made it within five games of winning it. There is always something that they are not able to overcome: 2011-12 was an inconsistent season that ended by Earth Day, and the main culprit was the penalty kill.
The Sharks were one goal away from being dead last in the NHL, and were terrified of penalties to becoming almost timid. If the Sharks had the New Jersey Devils goal-scoring margin on the PK, they would have had the best record.
Enter Larry Robinson. He was the assistant in charge of that penalty kill last season. He also was a coach on two of New Jersey's Cup-winning teams (1995, 2000) and made consecutive appearances in the finals as a head coach (2000, 2001).
It is a perfect fit for a man who is not up for being more than an assistant but still wants to be behind the bench. And it is a perfect fit in San Jose for the following five reasons...
The single most obvious improvement on the San Jose Sharks has been the penalty kill. This is why Larry Robinson was brought in, so it is only natural it would be his most significant contribution.
The first three games, the PK gave up five goals on 14 chances—a 64.3 percent success rate that made one long for last season. But two of those goals came on extended 5-on-3 penalties.
Then something clicked. And kept clicking. Thirty times.
That is right, the Sharks' PK has killed 30 straight penalties. There was more than one 5-on-3 within, but only one long one. Still, that is 1:36 of being short two players, and they got one of two shot attempts on goal with that disadvantage.
This is no fluke. They will give up goals, but this streak has done little more than balance out the tough start. They should now hold right around eight out of nine.
Scott Gomez was the Calder Trophy winner for rookie of the year in 2000 and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Larry Robinson was his coach.
That prior relationship helped facilitate a deal for a player pushing his way onto the scoring lines but is being paid near the minimum. He has been known for being good defensively and remained popular in his locker room in Montreal despite his poor play.
At the very least, Gomez provides one more forward good enough to dress every night that knows what it takes to win in June.
The San Jose Sharks only have three defencemen who have seen their 30th birthday. Who better to develop them than Larry Robinson, one of the all-time best at that position?
Matt Irwin has been much more of an asset than a liability in his first nine NHL games. Nick Petrecki was not a visible liability in his first and only NHL game so far.
The younger veterans are showing something, too. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is off to his best season yet, with a goal and three assists to go with his usual shutdown defence. Justin Braun was playing well until Tuesday and Jason Demers has looked very good in his two games played.
Robinson has almost certainly been an influence in absorbing losses to Dan Boyle twice and Brent Burns all season by getting their replacements ready. Once Burns comes back, he will have helped them play eight deep on a blue line as strong as any at the top.
Larry Robinson was an assistant coach in 1994-95 when the New Jersey Devils won their first Stanley Cup. Having been a champion in that short season is another asset for the San Jose Sharks.
There were 48 games in that NHL season—the exact same number as 2013. While the schedule did not unfold the same (the strike was midseason), Robinson knows what it takes to make a playoff push with each individual game magnified.
Larry Robinson brings his Stanley Cup championship mentality to the San Jose Sharks.
While Todd McLellan was an assistant for the 2008 champion Detroit Red Wings, he was an assistant. Robinson has guided a team through the playoffs as its head coach.
While the Sharks do have five players whose names are etched on the Cup, none has had that honour more than once. Robinson won it more as a player than all five of them combined, plus added one each as a scout, assistant and head coach to give him nine total.
Knowing how to win the most difficult trophy in all of sports while serving in those many capacities can only translate well in the dressing room. He knows how to help four different key roles within the organization and has the approach it takes to win it all.