SAN JOSE -- Chances are high that when Todd McLellan resurfaces as the head coach of another NHL team -- an inevitability over the next few weeks -- it won’t be with an immediate Stanley Cup contender. There will be work to do for the 47-year-old coach and whatever staff he assembles.
There’s also plenty of work to do in San Jose, after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons, and first time under McLellan. McLellan indicated that it was time for him to move on and forego the final year of his contract partly because of that.
He suggested the mutual decision announced on Monday morning was just that, although he never had any discussions with the Sharks about a contract extension.
“I participated in the decision. I definitely did,” McLellan said.
After talking the situation over with various parties, including his own family, McLellan then had to “try and project where we would be at Christmas, see where we would be a year from now, and what happens after that, because this team is clearly in a rebuild,” he said.
“With one year left and heading forward, I had to analyze where everything was going. I felt with some of the answers I got, that it was time.”
McLellan chose not to reveal any of those answers, but he’s not against joining another NHL team that could be in a comparable rebuilding situation as the Sharks, who seem to need a major overhaul. Edmonton and Toronto qualify, while Philadelphia -- already reportedly interested in McLellan -- is still a year or two away from being a legitimate contender.
Why might those situations be more attractive than the place McLellan called home for seven seasons? He offered some insight when asked about the potential to coach can’t-miss prospect Connor McDavid in Edmonton.
“I would like to coach a great group of hockey players next year. Connor McDavid, everybody is talking about him and his ability to come and have an impact.
“One thing that I’ve learned is you can have the best player and still not have the best team. It’s about team. It’s about a group. It’s about the whole organization, the culture of the organization.”
The culture of the Sharks is something that’s been spotlighted in recent months, and even Logan Couture admitted last week that it’s “not great.”
McLellan was left to clean up various messes, including the leadership restructuring over the summer, the suggested transactions that never happened, and the Wilson-Joe Thornton rift that came to light in March.
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McLellan’s reputation among NHL circles has hardly been tarnished after all the turmoil. That’s a credit to him, but also could be viewed as an indictment on how the organization has been handled in the last 12 months.
So, where could McLellan end up?
The coach has a relationship with Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, as their time in Detroit overlapped for one season. He’s also friendly with Craig MacTavish, the Oilers’ general manager, due to their sons being teammates on Waterloo (USHL).
McLellan indicated that he wouldn’t be packing up the moving van, though, and his family will remain in the Bay Area. That could make a Western Conference team more attractive than Toronto or Philadelphia.
Either way, his phone will be ringing if it isn’t already. Wherever he ends up, he’ll arrive without any of the baggage that was heaped upon his shoulders in San Jose.
“I think when you look at teams that are available -- and I have no idea if they’re interested in Todd McLellan, first of all -- if they were, I’ll look at the people in the organization,” McLellan said.
“I think that’s so important to have the right people in the right spots, and then look at the team and figure out if there’s a chance for success, and what type of impact I could have.”