SAN JOSE – Current Sharks coach Pete DeBoer and former Sharks coach/current Oilers coach Todd McLellan first spent significant time together as part of Team Canada’s staff at the 2015 World Championships. McLellan had just departed the Sharks after seven seasons, and DeBoer was a few weeks away from being named his replacement.
The two have maintained a relationship since then, and DeBoer was even supposed to be a part of McLellan’s staff for Team North America at the World Cup before pulling out to spend more time with his family.
“I would say we’re friends,” DeBoer said this week, as the Sharks get set to host McLellan’s Oilers at SAP Center on Friday.
Anyone in San Jose who got to know McLellan would never have imagined the coach to have any sort of feelings of ill will towards his employer last spring, when the Sharks were on their run to the Stanley Cup Final just one season after the divorce.
It’s no surprise, then, that DeBoer indicated McLellan wished him the best after they spoke right around the Stanley Cup Final, which was won by Pittsburgh in six games.
“Absolutely. This business, you have to move on,” DeBoer said. “It’s a little easier moving on I think when part of it is your choice, which I understood that it wasn’t a situation where like I got fired in New Jersey, and you don’t have a choice. I think it was a mutual parting, from what I understand. When you have situations like that you throw yourself into the next job, and there’s no hard feelings, I wouldn’t think.”
“I’m sure he was emotionally invested in this group. You don’t spend seven years and win the number of games and have the type of people we have here without that, so I’m sure that stings a little bit. They’ve got a bright future there, and they’re doing a great job.”
McLellan has the Oilers on the right path, as they are tied in points with the Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division (each has 41, but the Sharks have two games in hand). The Oilers have, of course, gotten a huge boost from 19-year-old Connor McDavid. They have scored 103 goals, the most in the Western Conference, paced by McDavid’s league-leading 40 points (12g, 28a).
There is simply no combination of speed combined with tremendous skill in today’s NHL like McDavid, who is arguably already the best player in the league in just his second season.
“His quickness and acceleration is second to none,” Logan Couture said.
“It’s almost effortless the way he skates, the way he uses his edges – it’s like he doesn’t even dig into the ice. He’s just kind of on top of it. It’s pretty special to watch as a fellow NHL player, to see how well he skates. It’s great for this game to have him in this league.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic will surely see plenty of McDavid on Friday.
“He uses his speed anywhere – he outskates guys, skates past the fastest guys with his speed, and he can handle the puck at high speeds,” Vlasic said.
The Sharks, who have won five of their last six, desire to be in sole position of first place at the Christmas break. The team has three CBA-mandated days off from Dec. 24-26 before resuming its schedule in Anaheim on Dec. 27.
In a division that’s more competitive this year, including the resurgent Oilers, that would be an accomplishment.
“Obviously we understand they’re a much better team and they’ve been playing good, playing hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “It’s a team we don’t take lightly, by any means. They got McDavid, they got a few guys that are scoring. Their defensive systems are better.
“We want to worry about ourselves and make sure we finish this game here before the break playing hard.”