The Sharks coaching sweepstakes are done, and Peter DeBoer is the winner. Or the loser — time will tell. David Pollack in his Working the Corners got a chance to dig in with some of the basic questions with the new coach.
DeBoer was most recently coach of the New Jersey Devils (2011 to 2014). Prior to that he coached the Florida Panthers in 2008-2011. He’s gone to the NHL playoff’s once in seven seasons and lost to the Kings in the Cup Final that year (2011-12), but seriously: Panthers and Devils. that answers my first question: he’s already a winner.
DeBoer was one of the final candidates for the Sharks coaching position last time it was open, ultimately having it go to McLellan. Doug Wilson made the comment that his being available again this time seemed karma, so it seems he was the candidate who had to lose the position from the start. The other strong candidate for the job was Dan Bylsma (formerly Pittsburgh, now Buffalo), with other names mentioned including Dave Lowry and Rob Zettler, both up and coming coaches and former Sharks players — in Zettler’s case, and ex-teammate of Wilson in the early Sharks days. I’m going to be curious to see if either Lowry or Zettler end up on DeBoer’s staff.
DeBoer is considered an up-tempo, strong defense, puck possession coach who is a strong communicator but also willing to kick a few butts if they don’t meet expectations. This seems a great match to the current Sharks talent.
My take: I like the hire. I would have liked Byslma as well. I had a feeling Wilson would go with an established coach over one without NHL experience, but it wouldn’t surprise me if either Lowry or Zettler get invited to join the staff.
If you read through enough material about the Sharks, you start to see that Wilson and McLellan were not on the same page about a number of things — the way McLellan handle the captaincy (or more correctly didn’t) was a big one, and when asked about this wilson made it explicit that the choice of captains was the decision of the coach alone — but he said it with a clear subtext of “If I don’t like the decision AND it doesn’t work out, you may end up in Edmonton”. There were clear disagreements over how to use Hertl with Wilson wanting him played more at Center than McLelland did. Once you put this all together, it’s clear why McLellan decided it was time to move on, and why Wilson didn’t try very hard to talk him out of it.
There was no talk of McLellan getting an extension, and if he’d gone into next season without it, the team might ahve considered him a lame duck, complicating his ability to manage the players — and if things went sideways, it’d be that much easier to fire him quickly. And given the disagreements on strategy that’ve come out, McLellan could see it likely that when the contract expired, he’d be moved on anyway – it was pretty clear Wilson wasn’t going to bring him back after next season at best. There are also some clear signs that McLellan and Joe Thorton had some disagreements, and I think it’s safe to assume Thorton wasn’t the only player that would be true of.
Sometimes it just makes sense for everyone to declare it’s time for changes and move on, and that’s what the sharks and McLellan did. I think these changes work best for everyone — McLellan has a good opportunity and fresh start in a revitalized Edmonton, the Sharks clearly needed a new leader to get rid of some of the history. I’m encouraged, but the devil is in the the details, and so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when camp opens.
I think one of the more interesting decisions to watch is how DeBoer sets up the captaincy structure. Last year’s structure won’t make it to opening day, I’ll bet. And I’ll bet on Pavelski getting the C, and two of Thornton, Vlasic and Couture getting A’s.
All in all, I think this hiring is a positive for the team and I think it gives me hope things will go better next season.