Power Ranking the Last 5 San Jose Sharks Head Coaches

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IAugust 7, 2014

Power Ranking the Last 5 San Jose Sharks Head Coaches

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    Head coaches matter in the NHL. Often a team like the San Jose Sharks can go from terrible to good after changing coaches without making major roster changes.

    Here is a look back at the last five Sharks head coaches ranked from fifth to first.

    The factors considered are the coach's record with the Sharks, longevity, regular-season record and, most importantly, playoff success.

    A coach needs to have lasted at least half a season with the Sharks (or 41 games) in order to be considered for this list. Interim coaches who coached only briefly or took over for a sick or suspended coach are not included here.

    Feel free to comment on any coach discussed and why you feel he should be ranked higher or lower on the list. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.

5. Al Sims

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    Al Sims lasted only one season behind the Sharks bench. While the team's record improved 15 points over the previous season, it was not enough to keep Sims employed.

    The Sharks finished 27-47-8 under Sims in 1996-97 and failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year. They scored fewer goals than any other team in the league, and only two clubs gave up more goals than San Jose that year.

    Sims was not retained because he managed to alienate his players. By the time the season was over, there was little doubt he had lost the locker room. An anonymous source close to the team told Tony Cooper of The San Francisco Chronicle, "After the first road trip of the regular season, players wanted to kill him."

    Team captain Todd Gill also admitted many players were unhappy with Sims. "I'm not going to say everybody got along with him," Gill told Cooper. "That would be stretching it. He definitely had some people who didn't believe in his tactics."

    At the end of the season, general manager Dean Lombardi dismissed Sims. "The fit was not right for the future of this team," Lombardi said, per The Los Angeles Times. "The franchise made many positive strides this season, but this change was necessary to continue in the right direction."

    Although he has had success coaching at the minor league level, Sims has not been given another NHL head coaching job since the Sharks let him go.

4. Jim Wiley

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    Jim Wiley took over as coach of the Sharks after the team got off to a slow start during the 1995-96 season. The Sharks fired coach Kevin Constantine and promoted Wiley, who was coaching San Jose's AHL affiliate in Kentucky, to interim coach.

    The new coach got off to a good start, leading San Jose to a 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals in his first game behind the bench.

    San Jose players found Wiley less dictatorial than Constantine. Wiley was able to improve the team's record slightly, but the Sharks were still developing and just in the fifth season of their existence. The team was improving, but it had yet to reach the .500 mark over the course of an NHL season.

    Wiley finished with a 17-37-3 record, which was only good for seventh place. Management did not see enough improvement under Wiley's leadership to retain him, and he was reassigned to the AHL club again the following season.

3. Darryl Sutter

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    Darryl Sutter may not have been the best coach in Sharks history, but he was the one who turned the franchise around. Before he took over in 1997, the Sharks never had a winning season. They have been consistent winners since Sutter's tenure as coach.

    Sutter led the Sharks to the playoffs in each of his five full seasons in San Jose. Before he arrived, the hockey world viewed San Jose as an expansion franchise. After Sutter left, the Sharks were considered Stanley Cup contenders.

    In 2002-03, the team got off to a slow start, and Sutter was fired. General manager Dean Lombardi, who had hired Sutter, felt a change was needed to help the franchise advance to the next level.

    "It's not an easy decision to make when you've had a track record with a person for a long period of time," Lombardi told The Associated Press (h/t The St. Petersburg Times). "I don't think you can sum it up as any one thing. That's why these decisions are never easy."

    Sutter's record in San Jose was 192-182-60. He later won a pair of Stanley Cups while coaching the Los Angeles Kings.

2. Ron Wilson

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    Ron Wilson spent four full seasons behind the San Jose bench, and the Sharks never finished with fewer than 99 points in any of those campaigns.

    Wilson enjoyed plenty of regular-season success with the Sharks, winning a pair of Pacific Division titles and finishing in second place twice.

    Wilson also reached several milestones while coaching the Sharks. He passed Darryl Sutter to become the all-time wins leader in franchise history. He also earned his 500th career NHL coaching win during his tenure in San Jose.

    The problem Wilson had was sustaining postseason success. The Sharks reached the Western Conference Final in 2003-04—Wilson's first full year with the clubbut failed to advance past the second round in each of the next three seasons.

    After a third straight early playoff exit, general manager Doug Wilson let Ron Wilson go. "Ron helped foster a new era in San Jose Sharks hockey with some record-setting, regular-season performances. However, ultimately we have decided that it is time for a different voice and a different approach to lead this team," Doug Wilson told The Canadian Press (h/t The Hockey News). "We are proud of what we've accomplished as an organization, but we feel that this team is capable of achieving greater success."

    Wilson's final record in San Jose was 206-122-57, but his failure to meet the team's high postseason expectations cost him his job.

1. Todd McLellan

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    Todd McLellan is the most successful coach in San Jose Sharks history. Since taking over as coach in 2008, the former Detroit Red Wings assistant has an impressive 271-130-57 record.

    McLellan also led the Sharks to a franchise-best 117 points in 2008-09. That season, the club also won the President's Trophy for finishing with the best record in the league.

    The Sharks have won three straight division titles under McLellan and have made the playoffs for six consecutive seasons.

    More importantly, in 2010 and 2011, he guided San Jose to the Western Conference Final, equaling the deepest playoff run in franchise history.

    McLellan has endured his share of playoff disappointments as well. The Sharks were eliminated in the opening round this past spring after taking an early 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings. That made the Sharks only the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead and lose a playoff series.

    McLellan will return in 2014-15 and is still trying to lead the Sharks to that elusive first Stanley Cup.