One of the first casualties of verbal abuse when a team isn’t doing as well as the fans think it should is the coach. Doesn’t matter what sport, they’re usually the one to blame because they aren’t inspiring the players or some such bullshit. I’m not one of those fans, I’ve played sports most of my life so I know that the staff’s hands are relatively tied once the game starts. Because of this, I immediately jump on the defense of Todd McLellan when I hear someone start up on why he’s the problem.
To paraphrase the old adage: you can lead your team to the rink, but you can’t play for them. Switching up line combos to promote strengths and prey on weaknesses only goes as far as the players are willing to push themselves. Granted the coach is there to lead the team, but the way I see it the Captain is the one the players will follow. In this, Joe Thornton is a great example: when he forechecks and leads the league in takeaways, the Sharks’ offensive game is on fire. I don’t mean to say poor performance is the Captain’s fault either, winning or losing is a group effort.
I digress, the main point I’m trying to make here is that replacing the coach does not necessarily constitute a change in the team dynamics. This last season was a perfect example of both sides to the argument. After the Capitals replaced Bruce Boudreau (who the team famously had lost faith in) with Dale Hunter, they actually did worse but worked better as a team. The Kings on the other hand, made a spectacular turnaround after canning Terry Murray and bringing in Darryl Sutter. He got the team running as a well-oiled machine and the result speaks for itself. The rest of the coaching changes in the league went much of the same way with none of them being terribly memorable.
More times than not, the reason for sacking a coach is because they have lead the team to repeat early exits from the playoffs, or a lack of postseason appearances. Even in this a great coach can persevere and keep his job, as evidenced by Barry Trotz. Despite having no banners hanging from the rafters in Nashville, Trotz has managed to elude unemployment by being an outstanding coach.
All things considered, Todd McLellan deserves to stay in San Jose. He has proven himself to be more than competent in all aspects of his job, and deserves the fans’ continued support in leading our team.