Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - At first glance, the San Jose Sharks appear to be a mildly disappointing team this season, but the club's record doesn't tell the whole story.
With over a quarter of the regular season in the books, the Sharks are 10-9-4 and within striking distance of a playoff spot in the highly competitive Western Conference. But, after the way the 2014 playoffs ended for San Jose, that may not be enough to save Todd McLellan's head coaching job.
The Sharks, of course, had the dubious distinction of joining the NHL's greatest playoff chokers last spring, losing four straight to the Los Angeles Kings after taking a 3-0 lead in the opening-round series.
To some, the fact that San Jose was able to take it to the eventual Stanley Cup champions for three games before falling apart was an accomplishment in itself. To people like McLellan, his players and the hardcore fans of the Sharks, it offers little in the way of consolation.
The Sharks have been declared Stanley Cup contenders at times during McLellan's six-plus seasons behind the San Jose bench, but the events of last spring once again showed how far the club is from reaching that goal. Instead, less than two months after collapsing to the Kings, the Sharks had two watch as its fellow Californian club skated to a second Stanley Cup title in three seasons.
While the Kings are clearly winning the "Battle of California," the Sharks haven't even been good enough to take second place in the three-team race. Anaheim, after all, has a pair of Cup Finals appearances and one championship to its credit and the Ducks are currently leading the West with 31 points.
The leads us back to McLellan, who seems destined to pay for the Sharks not being able to live up to the expectations. Judging his recent comments to the San Jose Mercury News, that fact is not lost on the 47-year-old coach.
"I feel confident with myself and the coaching staff, but I'm also a realist," McLellan told the newspaper. "I know that the team hasn't performed to the level that any of us are happy with -- not just ownership and management, but also coaches and players aren't happy with the results."
In truth, it's surprising McLellan was allowed to return this season after what transpired against the Kings. It wasn't just the historic playoff meltdown either, as 2014 marked San Jose's third straight postseason which ended before the conference finals. McLellan led his club to the West finals in both 2010 and 2011, so it seems we're looking at a team on the decline.
Instead of firing McLellan last spring, however, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson opted to bring back the bench boss, while presumably putting him on a short leash. With San Jose's sleepy start to 2014-15, the collar is tightening around the coach's neck.
Although it's clear McLellan is feeling the heat to turn things around, it's anybody's guess how much time he has to do it. Does he only have a handful of games to get San Jose headed in the right direction, or is it more like months?
"I understand the business," McLellan added in the Mercury News. "But I can tell you that we show up for work every day and that we put our work boots on and we try to make this group better. And we will over time. We just have to keep at it and see where it goes from there."
McLellan is running out of time to prove he deserves to be San Jose's coach and if he goes, it may not be long before Wilson follows him out the door. If the Sharks players care enough to save either man's job, now would be a good time to go on a hot streak.
REMEMBERING PAT QUINN
Tragedy struck the hockey world earlier this week when NHL coaching mainstay Pat Quinn succumbed to a lengthy illness Sunday night and died at the age of 71.
Quinn was an NHL player for nine seasons, but is better known for his time as a coach and general manager. He coached the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers during a career that spanned two decades.
The Hamilton, Ontario native was one of only four men to win the Jack Adams Award with at least two different teams, claiming the coaching award in 1980 with the Flyers and in 1992 with Vancouver. Quinn led both Philadelphia (1980) and the Canucks (1994) to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Quinn's crowning achievement, however, came at the 2002 Winter Olympics, when he led Team Canada to a gold medal at the Salt Lake Games. The victory ended Canada's 50-year gold medal drought, with the nation winning the Olympic tournament for the first time since 1952. As a result of that gold medal and his overall dedication to his home country, Quinn was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012.
Even after leaving coaching behind, Quinn still found a way to serve the sport he loved so much, working as chairman for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Whether he was playing for a team, coaching a team or building one, Pat's contributions to hockey, at every level, reflected the skills he possessed and the great respect with which he treated the sport," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.