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.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”