The ‘Saving’ Series
The San Jose Sharks are in deep trouble. Within the last two months, the team missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade and lost possibly the best coach in team history. Very little has been told to the fans about how the franchise plans to rebound from the forgettable campaign last year. They lack a message, a leader, and an identity.
There is much to be fixed in San Jose, which has many believing that the Sharks will not have a bounce-back year after the summer. However, there are a number of things that can be done to help the team not only next season, but in the future as well.
This series will cover a number of things the organization can do to make themselves competitive again come October. While many of these tasks are from an optimistic point of view, they are all possible. Management just has to make the right moves.
First things first, let’s find San Jose a coach.
There are a plethora of choices in terms of possible head coaches for San Jose, even though Mike Babcock went to Toronto. The team has already interviewed the likes of Randy Carlyle, Dan Bylsma, and Adam Oates, while men such as Craig Berube and John Tortorella float in the market as well.
Even Claude Julien may be available soon after the Boston Bruins failed to make the postseason last year.
To find the right leader for Team Teal, there are a number of qualifications that must be considered. These prerequisites include a positive attitude towards the club, prior success, and the ability to get the best out of their roster.
No Negative History
The next coach of the Sharks needs to have a positive reputation with management, the players, and the fanbase. Acquiring somebody who has a past of feuding with the team will only further divide the locker room that saw serious complications occur last year. This should immediately rule out Oates and Tortorella for the job.
Most Sharks fans remember Tomas Hertl’s epic four-goal game against the New York Rangers in 2013. It was a night that gave birth to a highlight-reel goal for the ages, spawned hope for those who bleed teal, and featured one of the best interviews in franchise history. It was a beautiful event for San Jose and the rest of the NHL.
Oates, however, did not feel the same way.
The former Washington Capitals head coach criticized the 19-year-old for his conduct during the game and advised the young Czech to not “disrespect the league.” This started a controversy around the NHL and sparked a number of notable responses from both players and analysts.
— Strombone (@strombone1) October 9, 2013
Tortorella, on the other hand, seems to fight with everyone involved with the league. He is known for heated interviews, brutally calling out players, and having little patience for anything or anyone.
Former Sharks captain, Joe Thornton, is one of the many people who has been a target to the coach’s aggression. After No. 19 called Tortorella’s Rangers team ‘soft,’ the angriest man in the world issued the following response:
Both of these options would bring a detrimental presence to the organization, and as a result, neither of them should be the coach of this team.
The Sharks have never had a head coach that won a Stanley Cup prior to joining the team; Todd McLellan earned a Cup ring as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, and Darryl Sutter has won two Cups with the Los Angeles Kings after his stint in teal. Perhaps getting somebody who has won it all as a head coach will help solve the team’s postseason struggles.
This requirement eliminates notable candidate Craig Berube. In his two seasons coaching the Philadelphia Flyers, he barely made the playoffs one year and failed to qualify for them altogether the other year. While his roster played a moderate role in those outcomes, he lacks the experience that San Jose needs in the postseason.
Anybody who has not coached at the NHL level is also out of contention due to this clause.
Bylsma > Carlyle
Based off of the previous requirements, only two coaches remain plausible choices for the Silicon Valley team: Dan Bylsma and Randy Carlyle. While both men have won the Stanley Cup, Bylsma is vastly superior to the controversial Carlyle.
As the writers at Fear the Fin point out, the former Leafs coach is the opposite of what San Jose needs. He made a number of questionable lineup decisions in Toronto and only won a the Cup because he had a stacked defensive group in Anaheim. The Sharks have had a history of poor roster choices over the last year and do not possess the strong defense Carlyle had with the Ducks. He would inevitably fail in a coaching role in San Jose.
As for Bylsma, his career is the epitome of success. He holds a 251-117-52 record, won Lord Stanley’s Cup, and managed to keep the Pittsburgh Penguins a contender in a season that saw both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin go down with lengthy injuries.
On top of his NHL experience, he was the head coach for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics and the assistant coach for his country at the 2015 IIHF Worlds.
Bylsma is the Man
It appears that Pittsburgh’s former coach is the perfect fit for San Jose. He meets all the qualifications and knows what it takes to win in high-pressure situations.
Obtaining the American coach will not be easy though. He is one of the best coaches in the market and many teams are interested in his services. His salary will be relatively high and the Sharks will have to somehow attract the elite leader to a franchise that was filled with disfunction all of last season.
If the Sharks are unable to get Bylsma, they need to hope that the Bruins’ Julien is relieved of his duties sometime this offseason. He is the only other option that could help San Jose improve next year.
Until then, the Sharks need to go all out for Bylsma because he is the man that can successfully lead this team for many years.
Drew Weber is a columnist for the San Jose Sharks at The Hockey Writers. He previously wrote articles and appeared on podcasts for Teal Town USA (formerly Pucknology) and contributed briefly to Fear the Fin. You can follow him on Twitter at @puck_over_glass.