The elephant in the room has shown itself, and the unthinkable has happened.
On Wednesday night, the San Jose Sharks snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, getting eliminated in Game 7 at home by the Los Angeles Kings, the second straight year their intrastate rival has eliminated them.
Of course, this time around is much different as the Sharks became the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead, the first since the Boston Bruins did it against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2009-10 playoffs. (Writer’s Note: I predicted the Kings would beat the Sharks in seven games in my series preview, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it to happen like this.)
San Jose’s playoff history resembles Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves throughout the 1990s and early 2000s: They had great regular season teams, but they just couldn’t get it done when it mattered, 1995 notwithstanding in Atlanta’s case.
But for San Jose, this one has to hurt more than all others.
Now, there must be questions surrounding the status of head coach Todd McLellan.
A couple hours after the game ended, I spoke with Eric He, editor of Blades of Teal, through a series of direct messages on Twitter to get his take on the collapse, and what the aftermath should be pertaining to McLellan.
“I would say they would have a good argument,” He said of fans potentially calling for McLellan’s dismissal. “He’s the longest tenured coach in franchise history, so he’s had plenty of time, yet no playoff results. … He has one of the most talented teams in the NHL, but he doesn’t coach them to (their) full potential.”
In his six seasons behind San Jose’s bench, McLellan has taken the team to two appearances in the Western Conference finals, but he hasn’t been there since 2010-11.
McLellan’s path closely resembles his immediate predecessor, Ron Wilson, and in a bit of irony, Darryl Sutter, whose Kings orchestrated the comeback as the Sharks faltered. All three coaches had a lot of regular season success in San Jose, but for nearly two decades, the success simply hasn’t parlayed itself into a Stanley Cup finals appearance for the Sharks, much less a trophy.
Both Wilson and Sutter lasted six seasons in the Shark Tank prior to getting the axe, so it may not be a good omen for McLellan, even though he signed a contract extension with the team last June.
Of course, a historic collapse adds yet another chapter to the Lemony Snicket-like history of the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs, and it may be too much for the front office to overlook.
Once again, Eric He summarized the situation about as well as anyone could.
“This debacle tells you all you need to know about the Sharks’ playoff history.”
While the players must also be held accountable to a degree for the result, the finger often gets pointed elsewhere first.
Now, McLellan could take solace in the fact that, in two of the three collapses, the head coaches (Jack Adams in Detroit in 1942; Claude Julien in Boston in 2010) not only returned the next season, but followed by winning the Stanley Cup.
We could go into great depth about what the Sharks need to do to improve this offseason (fire general manager Doug Wilson, rebuild the team by trading aging players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Martin Havlat, etc.), but for the purpose of this poll, the question is simple: Do the Sharks fire Todd McLellan, or do they keep him?
Please let us know by voting here, and if you think McLellan should be fired, who replaces him? Let us know in the comments below, commenting on Facebook, or by Tweeting me @gecarragher.
Once again, I’d like to thank Eric He for graciously taking the time to talk to me, and please give the folks at Blades of Teal a Twitter follow @BladesofTeal.