SAN JOSE- Monday afternoon marked the first time that the local Bay Area media have gotten to catch up with San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan since the lockout began. The head coach was noticeably in good spirits as the now-shortened season approaches. The following is some of the Q & A from his presser at the Sharks Ice practice facility.
Where are the players at physically?
“Some players have been playing since August and will come in completely game ready and in fact may need a bit of a rest. Where others haven’t had the opportunity to be in that competitive situation. So camp will reflect that a little bit. Some players will go a little harder in certain situations, others will pull back and we’ll try to manage that throughout the year as well.”
Have you been appreciative of the fact that players are skating on their own?
“For the most part, the players that I’ve been able to run into today, and that’s been the extent of our contact with them, they look like they are ready to go and are excited about being back and ready to play but again, half our team isn’t here and once everybody’s in, we get a health update and a fitness update and we’ll have a better indication”
Fans and players have gone a bit stir crazy during the lockout, how has it been for you?
“It’s been a bitter sweet thing for us, obviously not being able to be around the players. You don’t realize how much of a camaraderie you have with them until they’re gone. In the same breath [the lockout] has allowed us to recharge our batteries as a coaching staff. It’s given us an opportunity to watch Worcester play and evaluate players there. Away from the rink it’s allowed us to be around our families a little bit more. That would be the only positive out of the lockout from a personal perspective but we’re ready to go and it’s time to start working again.”
Is it helpful to have a solid core with not too much change over in this shortened season scenario?
“I do think that will be a benefit. When you talk about coaching and systematic play, the terms we use, the things we want to do will be familiar to the most of them. Brad Stuart, Adam Burish, two of the new players that we’ve added, Brad’s been around our organization in the past and I think he’s comfortable with where he is so Adam will be the one new player that we’ve got to indoctrinate into what we want to do but I think he’ll have an easy time adjusting and will contribute right off the bat.”
New associate coach Larry Robinson went through this type of shortened season as a coach, will you be picking his brain?
“We’ve picked about as many brains as you possible can. We’ve had a lot of days, obviously Larry, Jim Johnson, who also is a knew coach on our staff, they’ve experienced it more than once. They’ve gone through it from a players perspective as well as a coaching perspective so we’ve tried to tap into their knowledge and their past, but that’s awhile now. We’re going to have to learn on the fly and adjust as we go and there will be 29 other teams doing the same thing.”
Will it be more difficult operationally with less time for line combinations to build chemistry?
“That’s the familiarity part. We will start with players that are comfortable together, that have played in the past with each other. Doesn’t mean we’ll stay there but we’ll start there. And we’ll see if we can get them up and running and get their game together real quick. As this season goes on we’ll tinker with it if we have to, obviously if it’s not working it will be a quick tinker but that’s the plan.”
Michal Handzus had a lot to deal with last season in his first year with you guys, what do you expect out of him this year?
“Michal can be a very big part of our hockey club. Just his overall start last year with the Russian accident and losing one of his best friends certainly didn’t set the tone for him, arriving late to camp and he never really probably got going the way he wanted to, he’d probably be the first to admit it. But having time now to re-establish his game over in Europe and comeback and have an impact here, we’re looking forward to that.”
Logistical nightmare getting players back over here from Europe?
“Actually there is a good whack of our guys that are here already. We have got three or four that are still in Europe, others that are spread out around North America but a significant amount are already in the Bay Area and ready to go so it shouldn’t be that bad. The logistics part that makes it tough is not knowing. Not knowing what day we start on, not knowing what our schedule will be, not knowing yet what the transition rules are, how many players can we have in camp, how much time can we spend on the ice. When we get those rules clarified, it will make it a lot easier and we can start putting things into play.”
What does not having a full training camp mean for shortened season?
“It will make it a little more difficult. Practice time will be at a premium, obviously playing 48 or 50 games whatever it might be, in a condensed period, will take away from practice time. It will force us to play more back-to-back games or three games in four nights. Health will be very, very important. We like to remain a healthy team, that provides depth for us, but we have to play the cards as they’re dealt. We’re going to have to deal with some ups and downs throughout the year and some injuries. I really believe the teams that can find a resiliency to their game and to their organization are going to be the ones that are going to be successful.”