Battle Of Schemes: McLellan Vs Babcock

Daniel PetriContributor IApril 29, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 12:  Head coach Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks directs his team during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on January 12, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Patience and perseverance.  These are the two things the Sharks used to overcome the upstart Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Captain Rob Blake has mentioned many times that these two factors were what the Sharks needed to preach and practice.  In the first round, the Sharks stuck to the game-plan despite a couple of bad bounces early on.  They stuck to the game-plan despite journeyman goalie Craig Anderson doing his best Ken Dryden impression.  Patience with the game-plan and persevering over an opponent which could not match the Sharks with skill or size led to a victory in 6 games.

Now, round 2 (ding, ding!).  The Detroit Red Wings pose a very different challenge than the Colorado Avalanche, and while perseverance will be important, patience might be something that bites the Sharks in this round.  Detroit, despite getting a little old and not as talented as they once were, is still Detroit.  San Jose's old nemesis which has beaten the Sharks two out of three times in the playoffs; most recently in 2007 when the Sharks went from 30 seconds away from being up 3-1 in the series to getting badly beaten and losing the series 4-2.  Nik Lidstrom is still a Norris winning defenseman.  Tomas Holmstrom will still make life miserable for Nabokov.  Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are as crafty as ever.  Nik Kronwall will crush you if given the chance.  Not much has changed with these Red Wings since 2007.

As I mentioned above, patience might not work here.  Why?  Since coming over from Detroit, coach Todd McLellan has implemented the Babcock scheme in San Jose.  This has been mostly a good thing; however, this smells a little bit like the Raiders vs. the Bucs with Jon Gruden crushing his former pupil Bill Callahan.  Callahan kept Gruden's system, but Gruden, the master of his own system, knew how to exploit it.  Callahan did not change much and the Raiders were toast.  Patience with the system that McLellan brought over works against other teams, but not against the man who has perfected the system.  McLellan needs to change things up and make the Sharks less predictable. 

Babcock knows his system inside and out, so he knows its weaknesses.  Additionally, he coached four Sharks in the Olympics: Marleau, Thornton, Heatley, and Boyle.  He knows their strengths and weaknesses.  To counter this, McLellan needs to change things up.  Patience, and wanting to out-Detroit the Red Wings will not work.  This does not mean panic at the first sign of trouble; on the contrary, what this means is that minor adjustments need to be made in-game.  Sticking with the system, when the other team has perfected the system you are running is a potential recipe for disaster. 

Unlike the Avalanche, the Sharks cannot out talent, out muscle and out scheme Detroit.  Detroit can hold their own against the talent, muscle and scheme of the Sharks, so waiting until they crack will not work like it did against Colorado.  This series comes down to coaching.  If McLellan tries to out-Babcock Mike Babcock, this series is over in 6 with Detroit winning.  McLellan needs to come up with something different to attack Detroit with because once Babcock and the Red Wings know what is coming at them, they can easily strike back.  The man in the spot-light this series is Todd McLellan as he needs to find a way past the Detroit Red Wings.