NHL: Todd McLellan Front Runner for Coach of the Year

Nelson SantosCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2008

Todd McLellan joined the underachieving San Jose Sharks in the offseason, replacing Ron Wilson, who simply could not get the Sharks over the proverbial hump.


McLellan had success at every coaching level, including a cup championship with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. He seemed poised and ready for a head coaching gig.


However, this writer wondered if San Jose was to suffer the same fate as the Boston Bruins did when they scooped another former assistant coach from behind the Red Wings' bench.


As it turned out, Dave Lewis was a far more effective assistant than he was a head coach. He led Boston to a 35-41-6 record, missing the playoffs and subsequently being fired in the offseason.


As of San Jose's 27th game of the season, it appears McLellan is ready to be a successful NHL head coach. The San Jose Sharks set a record for the best start to a season in NHL history. They currently sit a top the NHL standings with a record of 22-3-2 for 46 points.


Joe Thornton, Devin Setoguchi, and Patrick Marleau are all inside the top 15 in scoring. Dan Boyle and Rob Blake are second and fourth, respectively in defensemen scoring.


Evgeni Nabokov is second in the league in wins amongst NHL goaltenders, even though he has played six less games than Lundqvist and Kiprusoff. However, he trails both by only one win.


What is most impressive about the revival of the San Jose Sharks is that McLellan has completely changed their approach. This is not a case whereby he took over a relatively successful team and decided to leave well-enough alone.


The Sharks are playing a far more aggressive puck pursuit and puck possession game than under the Ron Wilson regime. The Red Wings influence is certainly noticeable in the “Shark Tank.”


There is still much of the NHL season to play and McLellan has yet to deal with any adversity, which is certain to come his way, and that will be the true test of his coaching skills. However, at this point, Todd McLellan would have to be considered the runaway leader for the Jack Adams Trophy.