SAN JOSE — The once regular season dominant San Jose Sharks are spiraling down in the standings in rapid fashion, leaving players and most media speechless.
A once mighty Sharks squad fell to the Western Conference cellar dwelling Edmonton Oilers Thursday night, 5-2. Poor execution, missed passes, lack of any tenacity on the puck helped continue San Jose’s downward slope against a team who they had beat three times earlier this season.
Any hope Sharks fans may have had left after the game was quickly squashed by their TV color commentator Drew Remenda’s back and forth with head coach Todd McLellan during the post-game presser. Remenda brought up the topic of the Detroit Red Wings losing 10 out of 11 games three seasons ago when McLellan was an assistant there (Red Wings won the Stanley Cup that season) and the coach responded quite harshly about his current team.
“We did, you know I think I know where your going here Drew, the fact is we did lose 10 out of 11 but it was a little bit different to tell you the truth,” said the Sharks coach. “We had guys (in Detroit) who were coming to the rink prepared, guys who were coming ready to sacrifice and their minds were clear and they knew what the game plan was. Tonight, we didn’t have that from enough people.”
Drew’s follow up: “So is that up to the coach to try and help clear their minds or is that something only the individuals have to be accountable for?”
“I’m the leader of this team. I’m the coach, I’m the leader, it’s my responsibility to make sure that they’re prepared to play,” McLellan said. “After that, it becomes an individual’s responsibility. And right now I’m not doing a very good job. So they (players) need to step up a little bit, I need to do a better job, find better buttons to push but I am the leader of this group and I have to do a better job.”
Drew: “But the guys who play the 200 by 85 are the only guys who are going to be able to solve it so, you have to take accountability some time, I don’t want to seem to be argumentative but…”
“No, were all in it together. The disappointing thing for me is when someone shows up to work and they’re not prepared to work,” answered McLellan. “I can live with mistakes, I can even live with losing, were in a winning business but I can’t imagine what would happen in the real world; a brain surgeon, an ambulance driver, a police officer, somebody over in Afghanistan, if they weren’t prepared to exercise what they were asked to do in critical situations… and we didn’t have enough guys tonight.”
Drew: “So how do you facilitate a clearing of the mind, a focusing of the players when they come to the rink. As a coach they say you can only do so much so how do you try to facilitate that?”
“Well obviously what were doing isn’t working right now. So we gotta look at changing maybe (line) combinations, maybe some guys need to watch a few games, maybe practices need to change,” McLellan replied. “Perhaps the way we deliver our message as a coaching staff but ultimately as individuals, you have to be ready to play. Doesn’t matter how it comes across.”
Preparation, work ethic, effort, if you listen to the coach, it just isn’t there from enough of his players. It’s not as if the Sharks’ now six game losing streak and 2-8 record in their last 10 games is purely bad luck. That would be still an exciting brand of hockey where games are lost by just one goal, the team is scoring near their normal rate, and just an unheard of string of unfortunate bounces is the cause for an extended losing streak.
Nope, this brand of hockey has the hometown San Jose crowd booing their team as they come out of the dressing room for the third period. Sure, the score was 3-0 at the time, but more boos than cheers for a team entering their home rink? That simply doesn’t happen.
Jamal Mayers countered that his team didn’t have an effort issue at Wednesday’s practice, but he seems to be the lone Shark sticking by that notion.
As a whole, the team’s work ethic doesn’t seem to be there as consistently as necessary to be even a playoff team. Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News wrote the other day that maybe the drive of the “big three” to make Team Canada’s Olympic squad last year is what fueled such success the Sharks had last season. It is a strong theory to have but right now it is a hard one to disprove. Certainly the Sharks top Canadian players in Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau have put together tremendous seasons in prior non-Olympic years but this year, more than any other year, the tenacity and drive to win doesn’t look to be at the same level.
Why would that be the case?
Well that’s the big ticket question and we might never know the answer. What we do know is that it sounds like some top caliber players may be sitting in the press box for a game or two coming up.
And if that doesn’t get it done, a coaching change may be in order.