Robinson brings experience, credibilty to staff


Robinson brings experience, credibilty to staff

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.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'


Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes


Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

* * *

Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.