Todd McLellan must read the Battle of California. I'm convinced of it. I mean, why else would he hammer home the same damn points that we've been harping on for about a year?
Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News sat down with McLellan and his key points sounded like a wish list designed to meet BoC complaints:
McLellan wants that commitment to remain. But he also wants the Sharks to score 250 to 260 goals.
Oh, snap! Score more goals, be a better team. I like that formula! Ok, I never complained about things in that simple of terms, but I think we can all agree on this.
McLellan has the numbers to prove his point. In studying the statistical charts from 2007-08, one number popped out at him: shots taken by defensemen. Detroit, the best team in the league, had more than 800 shots from the blue line. Sharks defensemen took only 536 shots.
One of the most common gripes from us at BoC is that the old Ron Wilson power play involved a lot of hesitation. Point man gets the puck, he holds it...holds it...HOLDS IT (anyone get my Simpsons reference?) before faking a shot and passing it to Joe Thornton. The process repeats about four times before the point man finally shoots it into the shin guards of the opposing defenseman.
Quick and crisp. That's how you generate shots from the point.
That leads me to a quick tangent about Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff's probably got the biggest shot of any Shark but he often either shoots high or just doesn't take the shot. I know last season was about Christian becoming a stronger defensive defenseman and that's all well and good. Still, I'm hoping under McLellan he can put it all together.
And I like Drew Remenda's recommendation of Ehrhoff taking shots at the net in practice until he hits the net 100 times.
"If the puck's not at the net, why go there?" McLellan asks by way of an answer. "If we get the back end that's prepared to put pucks through to the net, and we have people going there, we solve two problems. ... The question about whether Joe should be standing net-front or somewhere else ... I don't want Joe to be standing anywhere. I want motion. I want Joe to be moving. I want everyone moving. The unpredictability of where he might be would be a tough thing for teams to handle."
Yes, yes, yes. Oh, the hockey gods have answered BoC's requests. This is comes in two parts. First off, pre-Brian Campbell, the Sharks' power play was extremely static. It usually consisted of giving Thornton the puck on the half boards, then everyone standing still until bad stuff happened. That sucked. After Campbell came on board, his constant movement on the power play forced the entire team to react and rotate, thus freeing up space and passing lanes. And you know what? It freakin' worked, at least until the playoffs.
Second point -- the whole world has been asking Thornton to drive to the net more ever since he got here. I don't think Thornton's ever going to win the Rocket Richard trophy but he's got a better shot than people give him credit for. Also, when he drives the net, it forces the defense to shadow him rather than just block his passing lanes -- which, of course, opens up other passing lanes. Keep them guessing and they won't just take the obvious passing lane to Jonathan Cheechoo.
McLellan's previously talked about another major BoC complaint: the fact that the Ron Wilson Sharks never kept moving their feet. That's hockey 101 and I don't know if the guys didn't listen to Ron Wilson or if wilson just forgot to emphasize the point. Whatever the case, there were far too many times when the Sharks passed the center red line and went into coast mode. McLellan wants speed, speed, and speed -- through the neutral zone, breaking the blueline, and on the pursuit and forecheck.
Yes and yes, I say. I honestly have no clue whether or not McLellan reads BoC or not (though really, if you're researching the Sharks before taking a job, wouldn't this be the first place to visit? Just saying.) but what he's publicly preaching is exactly what's been prescribed here for a long, long time.
Which brings up another question. Does that mean that our wacky family of Sharks bloggers here is smart enough to coach an NHL team?