San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told David Pollack of the San Jose Mercury News in early May that he thought highly of head coach Todd McLellan's work. That was confirmed before the end of the month when an official statement was made that he would remain behind the bench.
But that does not mean he felt good about the coaching staff. "There will be changes," he said in that same Pollack article. "To what degree, time will tell."
Time has told us much.
After signing Larry Robinson as associate coach, he has now added Jim Johnson as an assistant coach, according to an ESPN report Tuesday, July 10. Last season, he was an assistant on the Washington Capitals staff. The former defenceman is expected to help Robinson with the team's play in its own end, especially on the penalty kill.
"Adding two defencemen, both that have had tremendous careers as players and coaches, it would only make common sense that we push them in that direction," McLellan said in a conference call with reporters. "We're all aware that our penalty kill has to get betterâ"and I'm taking full responsibilityâ"and we're anxious to get some new ideas and new thoughts."
The team announced that Matt Shaw would not be back. Other coaches, including Jay Woodcroft who was overseeing the PK, will be retained but may work in different capacities. Woodcroft was very effective as the team's video coach, especially in aiding the team in the faceoff circle.
Robinson was largely credited with the New Jersey Devils having an historic PK, giving up just 12 more goals than they scored shorthanded. While Washington's PK finished just 21st last season, it was ranked second in Johnson's first season with the team (2010-11) after being in the bottom half of the NHL the two previous seasons.
It could be argued the PK was the difference in the Sharks last season. After four consecutive division title, they finished were two points away from claiming their fifth.
It is hard to believe a better penalty kill would not have resulted in beating out the Phoenix Coyotes. If the Sharks had the same competence they had in McLellan's first (scoring nine more shorthanded goals while giving up one fewer power play goal) or second season (five more and three fewer) when it was ranked fifth, perhaps they advance to their third-straight conference finals as the Coyotes did from that same spot.
While the PK was not very good the season before last, it spent most of the first half of that year in the top-10. As the struggles mounted, the Sharks became less and less aggressive to stay out of the boxâ"they were shorthanded just 225 times in 2011-12 compared to 327 in 2009-10â"and their on-ice play suffered.
Wilson is hoping these two additions can change the nature of the PK and thus the fortunes of the team.