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SAN JOSE – Sharks coach Todd McLellan is not only one of the more successful NHL head coaches since he took over behind the Sharks’ bench in 2008, he’s also one of the more metaphorical.
Friday morning was a good example of that, as he discussed his tenure in San Jose. When the puck drops on the Sharks’ game with Columbus, McLellan will become the franchise’s all-time leader in games as a head coach with 435, one more than Darryl Sutter.
“There’s a hockey joke where you have a tattoo that’s put on you when you spend some time in organizations. The Shark tattoo is the biggest one I’ve got,” McLellan said. “Certainly one that I hope will grow for many years, and it really gets ingrained when you win a championship.”
McLellan has successfully walked the line of being a good motivator and critical instructor, according to Patrick Marleau.
“I think he knows how to treat people, is the main thing,” Marleau said. “Every player is a little bit different how you have to motivate them I think, and he’s really good at pinpointing that and working on that.”
Marleau continued: “In the past, coaches have always been a certain way. It’s kind of evolved over the years where you have to have that one-on-one time with guys and get to know them, and just understand where they’re coming from, what they’re trying to do, and let them know we’re all in it together. There’s no coaches on one side and players on the other, like there used to be years ago.”
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Mike Brown is now playing for his fifth NHL team, coming to the Sharks via trade from Edmonton in October. As a newcomer to McLellan’s style, he was asked how his current coach compares to some of the other bench bosses he’s worked for.
“He can get the guys going. He knows this group pretty well,” Brown said. “He’s a smart guy, been around for a long time. He’s the type of guy that he can get his point across without yelling and raising his voice. He can be serious and he can be a good guy at the same time. It’s good to be around.”
McLellan himself said he continues to evolve as a head coach.
“When you come in to the league you have a strong belief system about how you want to do things, and how you want the team to play,” he said. “But, that’s all you really come in with.
“As years go on you develop relationships with management, staff, players, and the evolution of the game also changes. That belief system that you started with changes as years go on. The game changes, the rules change, so you have to be moving forward. You have to be looking for new and innovative ways.”
McLellan’s 256-124-54 record is the NHL’s third-best mark since the start of the 2008-09 season, behind only Chicago and Pittsburgh. Those teams, though, have won championships in that time, with Pittsburgh claiming the Stanley Cup in 2009 and Chicago in 2010 and 2013.
Until the Sharks get one, McLellan’s so-called tattoo won’t be big enough for his liking.
“That’s still our goal,” he said.