The Sharks officially introduced the newest member of the organization on Monday, and theres a prevailing feeling that they didnt hire just an assistant coach.
They hired the assistant coach.
Larry Robinson is undeniably one of the most respected men in hockey not surprising, when you consider his name is on the Stanley Cup nine times (six as a defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens, three as a coach with the New Jersey Devils). Most recently, Robinson helped guide the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals as an assistant to Peter DeBoer, where they lost to the Kings in six games.
Now, hes a part of Todd McLellans staff with the Sharks, and immediately becomes McLellans right-hand man.
His resume speaks for itself, so I dont need to get into that, Doug Wilson said via conference call on Monday. Theres nobody in this business I respect more as a player, as a coach, and as a person than Larry. Its a very exciting day for our organization.
RATTO: Sharks' hire of Robinson not what you think
McLellan said: Im extremely excited to have Larry join our staff and our organization. His experience is obviously something that we covet. As a young coaching staff here in San Jose, I think that hell bring many things to the table.
While its expected that Robinson will advise and assist McLellan and the rest of the staff on every facet of the game, hell work specifically with the teams defense and its penalty kill strategy. The Sharks finished 29th out of 30 on the PK last season, and were even worse in the playoffs, which is why Wilson has made fixing that area a priority this offseason.
McLellan and Robinson, who didnt know each other very well before discussions began to add Robinson to the staff, havent spoken specifically about that just yet. But, Robinson did offer up some of his philosophies on it.
I do have a few ideas and a few things that hopefully will help it move up the ranks, he said of the penalty kill. The league is a specialty league, so you can win and lose games with your power play and your penalty kill. There are definitely things that we can work on.
Positioning is a big thing in penalty killing. Its fine to be aggressive, but you have to be smart-aggressive. The biggest thing is, and I speak from some prior experience in other teams, is that we tend to sometimes lean on our best players as our penalty killers all the time. These guys get tired after awhile. Its good to have more than just two, three or four guys killing penalties.
The Hockey Hall-of-Famer Robinson, a 10-time NHL All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner as the leagues best defenseman, had nothing but good things to say about the Sharks despite their disappointing finish and first round ouster to St. Louis. The Sharks and Devils met just once last season in New Jersey, with San Jose pulling out a 4-3 shootout victory on Oct. 21, the first of five straight wins for the Sharks.
I like the team a lot, Robinson said. They scared the crap out of us when they came into New Jersey last year, and we thought they were probably one of the best teams in the league.
Robinson was asked about some preconceived notions regarding the Sharks, specifically that the team is too laid back to take that extra step and win a Stanley Cup.
He doesnt put any credence into those outside opinions.
Until youre inside and living with people on a day-to-day basis, its too difficult to make any assumptions at all. A lot of it is just hearsay, Robinson said. I dont listen to perceptions. I make my own mind up.
He also wanted to make it clear that hes not here as a head coach in waiting, should the team get off to a poor start.
That was the first thing that I said when I came into the room I do not want to be a head coach. Im not here to take Todds job. Im here to help in any way I can. I wouldnt want to be a head coach knowing that theres somebody with a gun behind me waiting to shoot me whenever something went wrong.
Well work things out when theyre not going right, but youve got the best head coach here in the best position possible and I dont foresee any problems at all.
Assistants Jay Woodcroft and Matt Shaw will remain on the staff, and the specific roles for everyone will be determined prior to training camp. Robinson is listed as an associate coach, just under McLellan.
When I look at our slotting as far as assistant coaches or associate coaches, theres an A, B, C and a D slot. In my opinion, weve fulfilled that B slot right now, and that would be the associate coachs role, McLellan said.
The two do have one connection in common. Both are familiar with long time NHL coach Jacques Lemaire McLellan as the head coach of the Houston Areos in the Minnesota organization while Lemaire was the coach of the Wild, and Robinson as an assistant coach to Lemaire in the mid-1990s in New Jersey and again in 2010-11.
We have a lot of common beliefs, and I can see having some good debates, as well, MeLellan said. I think that will be healthy for myself and for Larry, and in terms of our hockey club.
Robinson said: "Even if youre the best player in the world, at some point you need to be told that youre doing something wrong. Its my job to try and not only make them good hockey players, but better hockey players. If it means taking them out for lunch, or it means kicking them in the butt, whatever it takes or whatever Todd decides I should do, thats what were going to do.
The Sharks werent the only team to approach Robinson about joining their staff. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens were two clubs in particular that inquired about Robinsons availability after he decided he would not return to the Devils.
The reason for his move to the West Coast had plenty to do with family, and Robinson repeatedly mentioned that his wife wanted to be closer to the pair of grandchildren they have in Redondo Beach in Southern California.
Robinson also expressed that he wasnt ready to retire just yet, despite a long and distinguished NHL career.
I just felt like this was the right move for me. It allows me to not only come here to work with some great people, but also to work with an organization that I think is going in the right direction, giving me another chance to win another Cup.