Season ending interviews with San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson
The camera work is shaky, had to stretch over a couple of television cameras, but here is a partial clip of comments made by head coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson at the end of season media interview sessions.
Head coach Todd McLellan held an end of season interview session with assembled television reporters, but he went into a little more detail with print reporters after the locker room cleared out. Here are his comments to the TV crews, his subsequent comments will be posted next.
Game 7 was to be played tonight, we would prefer to be preparing for that but we are not. The way we played in the playoffs, and a little bit down the stretch is unacceptable. We take full responsibility for that. We have no excuses for it.
The regular season started very well for us. I thought there came a point where we hit the wall a little bit. Injuries came into play. Perhaps looking back on it from a coaching staff, perhaps we burnt a few players out. Again the intensity and the inability to play in the playoffs is unacceptable. We have to look at ourselves, first of all as a coaching staff. Make some changes the way we approach the game, and the way we prepare the team. Secondly they have to look at themselves, it starts with your core, as I mentioned in the playoffs. Then it trickles on down to the rest of the team and the foot soliders. We had good nights from some of those areas, and some not so good nights from them as well. You never win a championship like that.
That expection (that it is not good enough to just make the playoffs) is outside the locker room. It is also inside. That is our expectation. We're not putting the San Jose Sharks regular season together just to have a great regular season and get a long summer. That's not what we're about. Obviously it hasn't worked for us. We take full responsibility for that. We're going to have to look at everything carefully. If there is a change or an approach we have to make with the coaching staff or the system, then we have to address that. Personel-wise, everybody will be held accountable for their actions. Some decisions will have to be made.
(Was criticism of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau fair?) They're our superstar players. Do I think it is completely fair? No. I think we have a core that is larger than #19 and #12, the rest of the core did not perform as they would like as well. The secondary people, the teams that have advanced have got production from secondary scorers, their checkers. We have a line that produced 70 goals throughout the year, they had 2 in the playoffs. You can't win like that.
This is a team that had an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. Should of is a real bold word, but we had the opportunity to be successful. We didn't take advantage of it.
(Will changes be made) There has to be change, whether it is in personel, whether it is in the approach we take, whether it is the presence we have around the locker room, whether it is something we are doing as coaches, or how we are playing the game, there has to be a change. We can't continue on the way we are doing things. There will be.
I think right now we are in the emotion stage. We feel it, I know the fans feel it. I ran into a number of people that are very disappointed, rightfully so. They are emotionally attached to the team, they feel that emotion. We feel it in here right now. It is a real tough time to make decisions when your emotions are too high to think clearly. We'll take some time. We will take the time and make some changes.
(How much of the emotion is disappointment, how much is down right being ticked off a little bit?) I think it is a combination of both. One leads to the other. We are obviously diappointed, with that comes a real sense of frustration. I think everybody is frustrated either individually or collectively. You can feel it, just walk around the locker room. You can really feel it. Maybe it is a good feeling for us to have.
Todd McLellan was very candid with assembled print reporters, breaking down what the coaches needed to do after the series to re-evaluate the team, pointing to problems players had dealing with pressure, pointing to problems the team had with an avalanche of injuries down the stretch, discussed how he adjusted lines and matchups in the series, and discussed the key of the series which was a lack of playoff motivation for Games 1 and 2.
I don't know if it's clear, the frustration level and disappointment level is at an alltime high here, at least since I have been around. The emotions amongst everyone are very high. To make real quick decisions would not be productive. We have to see our way through it here for the next few days.
A lot of things have gone on in our world. As coaches we have sat down and gone through our roster, evaluating where the players started and where they went to. How we handled them, individually and collectively. Change where we would like to see improvement in them, and where we can help them. That's where we're at. That happened within a day and a half. There is a lot more work we have to do as a staff. We have to look at ourselves, the staff, and what was our impact on the season. How did our planning impact the team. How did we use people. There has to be a real good evaluation process there so we can change what we think is neccessary to make the next step.
I think it is too early to say (whether changes will be dramatic), I am looking to feedback from the players. Then we will have to evaluate. We are going to make it a level playing field, and give everyone an opportunity for some 1-on-1 time, for some input. Then we will go from there...
I don't think we handled the pressure as well as I thought we would, individually and collectively. Both (outward and inward pressure), we talked about the external and internal pressure. The external pressure maybe impacted individual players more than the team. Maybe the internal pressure, we weren't as competitive as we needed to be in Games 1 and 2. To me, that was the turning point.
Coming down the stretch, we had a roster that was beat up a lot. We didn't play probably the way we needed to play. We didn't use people in their accustomed roles with people they are used to playing with. So the playoffs come around, we get all of our bodies back. It was a concern of mine heading in. We put them all back together. Maybe we felt that was going to be the answer. Good, we got back to where we were. We didn't get across to them that that wasn't enough. We needed to have the same drive and determination we had earlier when we were all together.
(On external pressure) A little of it was history, every team in the playoffs has pressure. The Red Wings, my experience there, there is no team that has more pressure on them every year than Detroit. In 05, when we lost in the first round coming out of the lockout, I am not sure we handled it that well. The team adjusted, made some changes, and grew to the point that they are capable of handling it now.
That is a good question, that is a question we are asking ourselves right now (why the same playoff issue of slow starts remains year after year). A better question maybe later on in the series, why do you see it go up? The first people we have to look it is ourselves as coaches. Did we elevate them enough? Did we get them where they needed to be? We will start there.
You hope you don't, the way the year evolved we had all that success when everyone was together. Then we start losing pieces, we were waiting for everybody to come back. Assumed success isn't guaranteed. Just like putting a bunch of guys in here with Stanley Cup rings, I have said all along that success doesn't guarantee future success. It may help. Quite frankly, I thought those people that were in here had an impact on the series.
We didn't play as well coming down the stretch. We managed the team a little different coming down the stretch, trying to play some of the role players more to cut minutes back and take the taxing ones back from the leaders. We played people with different pairs and different lines, not by design but because we had to. We felt we had them ready to go. Then when the group came back together, we went with the familiar combinations. Maybe we just didn't get to the level we didn't need to get to.
(Do coaches look in the mirror and ask what they needed to do to be better?) I am. We are the first ones that have to, we have to look at ourselves first. It is too easy to run around and talk about everyone else first. We have a huge responsibility as a coaching staff.
(Are Marleau and Thornton too nice, does that core need to be broken up?) I think we need a little more time. I understand that sentiment. Their personalities, first of all we have to seperate the two because they are not the same. Their personalities are different, but they are the leaders. One wears the C, one wears and A. They are the focal point of our organization, them and the rest of the core, I have to include them. Quite frankly, they are. The team has not succeeded over the last little bit with them driving the bus, if you will. That doesn't mean they can't do it. I think the questions grow every year you don't succeed.
I would like to have Games 1 and 2 back. That is just having the opportunity again. We did break up the lines after the first game. We weren't sure where Patty was at health wise, quite frankly to tell you the truth. We went scoreless in Game 1. That line did not produce as well as we thought they would. We didn't want to hamper some of the other offensive players if Patty was unable to go. So we went there, we went with the same lines in Game 3 and won. We got the matches that we wanted. Then in Game 4, which I thought was the poorest game of the series, flat out poor. We started to play again with those same line combinations we won with. When it wasn't going good, we went back. Hindsight is 50/50, did we use the right line combinations, did we try the right matches. Yes/No.
Game 1... maybe as a staff we could have been more surly, more growly... could we have coaches, I don't want to use the word I used the other day, their level up. All that was going on, that (word) was the focal point. Could have we got them to the point they needed to be. Could we have effected that at all as a staff. I think that is the question we are asking ourselves as a staff more than anything. What could have we done. I liked our practices heading in, I liked our preperation heading in. It just wasn't there to start.
(Given Marleau's health status, did you think about not playing him?) No. He was capable of skating. He still ended up, he wasn't the poorest player in the series. We were told he could fight his way through it. He was prepared to do that. Away we went.
(About playoff grit) It is not on the store shelves. You can't just go to Costco and pick it off there. You develop it, we will look at doing that more throughout the year. You aquire it, whether it is developing your own players, whatever it might be. It is essential ingredient to winning. We showed that playoff grit at times in the series, but not enough. We showed it even in Game 6, we showed that we have playoff grit. Game 5 we had playoff grit. We didn't have playoff grit in Games 1 and 2, and we go right back to that again.
It was addressed (the lack of player's realizing what was lost after a poor performance in Game 1). We took that level up for Game 2. Even then it wasn't maybe enough, until we got deeper into the series.
San Jose general manager Doug Wilson identified the weak areas on the Sharks in the playoffs last year. He addressed them by bringing in future Hall of Fame blueliner and former Los Angeles Kings captain Rob Blake, and 2009 NHL Allstar Dan Boyle. Bludgeoned by injuries midway through the season, Wilson moved a pair of promising prosects to acquire Travis Moen and Kent Huskins from Anaheim to add depth.
Doug Wilson did not take as much time off to gather his thoughts about the team before addressing the media as he did in 2008, but it is still shocking that the general manager appeared more upset and more angry about the outcome of this playoff series than many of the players in the lockerroom. There are no islands on this team. Each individual player can be held accountable as much for his own play on the ice as he is for not helping teammates come to play with the focus and intensity needed to win.
I apologize to our fans and I apologize to our ownership, there will be some very difficult decisions to make ahead of us. We will deal with them head on. We will build a team that will win. Right now the autopsy, which is probably the appropriate word, will begin. Believe me the responsibility begins right here.
Everything will be evaluated. There is nothing that is off the table. This is a very, very disappointing moment. People tried to use this comment, someone called and tried to pacify me saying the journey is the reward. That is a crock. This is pro sports, winning is the only thing that matters. We will get there. It may take some tough times. This is going to be a real tough, painful summer.
We don't make excuses. Everybody is injured this time of year, if your not there is probably something wrong with them. We will give you a medical release, you guys can evaluate it for whatever it is. There are realities and excuses. We are not going to enter in to any excuse making or avoidance.
We will be very thorough, we will get input from everybody. Give everybody a chance to be heard, then we will go into action. I don't think it is appropriate yet (to meet with players). I need a few more days. I am going to meet with our coaching staff, who has been through this type of situation before. I am going to meet with some of our scouts. Then we will move to the next phase. There will be some decisions made, and some big ones.
In my mind (about what went wrong), it is probably inappropriate and unfair to come up with any rational things that you can use on the air.
(How did the players respond to their character being questioned) There is nothing to be said about that. The only response is to go and get it done. I think we are all done with this. This is what we are going to do, or whatever. This is pro sports, results are what speaks, nothing else matters.
Doug Wilson is exactly the leader the Sharks need building the team. He has the same "old school" mentality in the front office that he used to bring to the ice as a former Norris Trophy winning defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. The Sharks need to bring more of that "old school" mentality into the coaching philosophy and into the locker room.
[Update] San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak also went into more detail with an angry general manager Doug Wilson on his Working the Corners blog. At the end of a subsequent report on Patrick Marleau's sprained MCL, Pollack also posted a partial team injury report:
***Rob Blake — foot contusion, 10 days, MRI possible.
***Jonathan Cheechoo — MCL sprain, left knee, 22 days.
***Travis Moen — hip contusion, 8 days.
***Douglas Murray — left shoulder may need MRI, acts like mild rotator cuff strain.
***Evgeni Nabokov–strained hip muscle (gluteus medius), 13 days.
***Joe Pavelski — knee contusion, 4 days.
***Devin Setoguchi — mild ankle swelling by Achilles tendon.
***Jody Shelley — possible MRI for neck and shoulder soreness.
***Joe Thornton–groin/hip flexor, 63 days.