SAN JOSE – After sweeping a five-game homestand, including wins against three of the top teams in the Western Conference, the Sharks now find themselves at the top of the NHL standings in terms of winning percentage (18-3-5, .788).
The club has taken over sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division, is generally healthy now that Brent Burns has returned in full force, and is in the thick of the discussion when it comes to the best teams in the league.
On Sunday, I had to ask Todd McLellan – now in his sixth season as head coach – is this the best team he’s had in years?
“I can’t answer that question until the end,” he said. “Six years ago, we were motoring along, but there wasn’t the parity that we had now.”
That prompted McLellan to stand up from behind his desk and retrieve a binder full of game sheets from the 2008-09 season, his first behind the bench. That year, the Sharks were 22-3-1 after their first 26 games, on their way to a league best 117 points.
“It was going our way. At that point, if we look back, was that team better at that time? I don’t really know, but at the end it wasn’t.”
McLellan is referring, of course, to the Sharks losing in the first round of the playoffs to Anaheim in six games in a shocking upset.
The biggest difference between that team and this one, other than the parity McLellan mentioned, could be the head coach himself. McLellan was an assistant coach in Detroit before he signed on with the Sharks in the summer of 2008, replacing Ron Wilson. He's much more experienced now.
“You know people a little bit better, you know what makes them tick, you know when they need a rest, you know when they need to be pushed. Sometimes we have to back off, and in your first year you really don’t know when those moments are, because you don’t know the group.”
The Sharks will try and keep rolling on Tuesday in Toronto, in the first game of a four-game road trip.