mclellan capture may 19

Todd McLellan is going to coach one of the NHL’s all-time rookies if things break right this fall and Connor McDavid will most certainly be the best freshman McLellan sees in his NHL career. We can gain some insight into McLellan’s view of (normal) rookies by looking into the past and seeing what he valued when in his early years with San Jose. As with our recent look at Peter Chiarelli’s past in this area, there are some surprises.


It’s important to give some context for McLellan’s rookies. The Sharks were not a building team when McLellan took over in 2008-09 (they would win 53 games that season) so rookies who were playing needed to contribute. We’re looking for fast tracks versus slow play or prospects who
come through on time, and we’re looking specifically at McLellan’s first three seasons as he was adding players from a flourishing system. 

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  • 2008-09:
    Tomas Plihal (64 games);Jamie McGinn (35); Brad Staubitz (35); Lukas Kaspar (13); Derek Joslin (12); Riley Armstrong (2 games). 

Plihal was a 25-year old rookie with four AHL seasons behind him, while playing a limited (fourth line) role for McLellan’s first SJS team. McGinn was a second-round pick who spent a little more than half of his rookie pro season in the AHL before coming to the NHL. He was up and down again over a couple of seasons during his entry level deal before firmly establishing himself as an NHL player. Staubitz was a minor league enforcer with several years experience.

McGinn wasn’t fast-tracked (he spent significant time in the AHL during entry level) and the rest were minor leaguers or failed first round picks.

  • 2009-10: Jason Demers (51 games); Logan Couture (25); Derek Joslin (24); Benn Ferriero (24); Frazer McLaren (23); John McCarthy (4); Steven Zalewski (3).

Demers was a substantial prospect who spent his rookie pro season (2008-09) in the AHL—this is clear evidence of slow (or at least normal) play. Logan Couture was 20 and a new pro, spending 42 games (20-33-53) in the AHL before recall. Oilers fans will recognize his handling as wildly different than a plethora of Edmonton prospects during this time (Sam Gagner, etc) and this is absolutely a reflection of a more mature organization handling a gifted prospect.

Ferriero was signed as a college free agent and arrived at 22 after playing 58 solid AHL games in the Sharks system. McLaren was yet another enforcer prospect and Joslin kept hanging around trying to catch on as a regular.

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Demers and (especially) Couture stand in stark contrast to what the Oilers were doing during these years, and it’s hard to argue either player was fast tracked (or slow played). The Sharks brought them up when they were ready.

Novel idea.

  • 2010-11: Logan Couture (79 games); John McCarthy (37); Benn Ferriero (33); Justin Braun (28); Andrew Desjardins (17); Brandon Mishinter (13); Frazer McLaren (9); Mike Moore (6); Tommy Wingels (5).

Fantastic look at the Sharks during the early years of McLellan. The Sharks stopped Couture from qualifying as a rookie in 2009-10 (and did the same for Ferriero and McLaren) and clearly received the most from their gifted rookie. Interesting to see Justin Braun, at the time 23 and in his first pro season, spend half a season in the AHL before coming to San Jose.

  • 2011-12: Andrew Desjardins (76 games); Tommy Wingels (33); Thomas Greiss (19)
  • 2012-13: Matt Irwin (38 games)
  • 2013-14: Matt Nieto (66 games); Tomas Hertl (37); Eriah Hayes (15); Freddie Hamilton (11)
  • 2014-15: Barclay Goodrow (60 games); Melker Karlsson (53); Chris Tierney (53); Mirco Mueller (39); Matt Tennyson (27).

Andrew Desjardins was 25 when he played in San Jose and had already played pro hockey in Loredo before catching on with the Sharks’ AHL team (and playing there for a few years). Wingels was 23 and came to Worcester via college and on it goes. Matt Irwin was 24 as a rookie, Nieto was 21, Hertl was young but fantastic and he’d played one year after his draft in the Czech league.

This past season, I think you could make the case that Chris Tierney was fast-tracked, but in the same way we saw Jamie McGinn, and then only because there were multiple injuries impacting the NHL team. I will absoltuely identify Mirco Mueller as the outlier—he was rushed and it did not work out.

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I think there are some conclusions we can draw from this look at McLellan’s Sharks:

  • The Sharks don’t slow play but there’s zero evidence of rushing people
    either. In the three year window (and beyond, although this past season
    the club clearly rushed Mirco Mueller) it seems they simply elevate
    players when it’s obvious they’re ready.
  • They entered 2010-11 certain Couture would be able to contribute and that he was NHL ready. This is absolutely superior to the Gagner handling by Edmonton and in a very real way shows the kind of thinking Edmonton will (hopefully) be employing in the future.
  • Beginning with Plihal and continuing through the seasons here, the Sharks are auditioning all kinds of players, finding keepers, trade assets and throwaways—but in all cases, giving at-bats to find the answer.


We could see half seasons for Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl in Bakersfield (based on this look at McLellan’s Sharks) and perhaps auditions for players the organization may want to make a decision on in the coming year. McLellan’s teams in SJ included all manner of prospect types and they were given audition at-bats while the Sharks were winning hockey games.

Sounds like voodoo to me, but we wait and wonder.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    Honest question… Just spit ballin here. It’s all about checking off the boxes on the list, and it sounds like a terrible year to try and check off the defence box. So lets play what if… What if Tampa gets to the Stanley cup playoffs with Bishop? Would that make Vasilevsky somehow attainable??

    Tampa can’t walk away from a goalie who beats Price and Lundqvist could they?? Vasilevsky would solidify our goaltending for the next decade! Not saying Vasilevsky is the next Price, but he could be a Pekka Rinne or Tuuka Rask.

    He’s check that box off, and it sounds like next year would be a better time to look for a dman…

    Am I crazy??

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Not a bad idea whatsoever, but i don’t believe he’s ready to be handed the starting position quite yet. still needs time as a backup to develop properly.

      • Kevwan

        Agreed… But if you had Vasilevsky splitting games with Scrivens, and Brossoit playing minutes in the AHL, all a sudden goaltending starts to become a strength and not a weakness… We’re not trying to win the cup next year

        Just a thought I had while I was drinking too much… Thought I’d throw it out there and see how much hate would come flying back.

        Another thought from listening to lowetides show… Anderson & Cowan for say the 16th and (insert Marincin comparable here)

    • The GREAT Walter White

      WRT goaltender moves (which is the Oil’s most glaring need unless one thinks Scrivens and Bachman are remotely close to adequate) with the Sens signing the Hamburgler and O’Connor thay are awash in goalies. Looks like an opportunity.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Bring it on!!! Another lottery pick to add to Hall, RNH, Ebbs, Yakcity, Nurse, Klefbom, Draisaitl, McSaviour… Talk about a decade of dominance!!!! Will next years lottery pick be generational too??

      Don’t hate the playa… Hate the game!!! And trust me, you flamers are gonna absolutely hate the mighty oil again right away!! No rush, we can wait another year or 2 before we bend you over… Again…

    • The GREAT Walter White

      How are you able to assume this without waiting for the moves the new management makes for this team and also seeing how the players respond to McLellan. Cherelli, as we all know, isn’t going to ice the exact team that finshed 28th. Have at least a little patience.

      • knee deep in it

        Don’t waste your breath. The Great Walter White is just an unemployed Troll. Just ignore him….He will get bored and go back to Trolling “Plenty of fish”.

    • Anton CP

      Anyone that expect that Oilers to be a playoffs contender might be borderline delusional, the real fans that has followed Oilers hockey knowing very well that the team still has many spots to fill and may still be couple of years away from being highly competitive. Fans with real expectation is to want to see signs of improvement, if they ended up with another lottery pick then so be it. Oilers are looking to finish around 80+ points which will be the best result since 08-09 season, that will already be a significant improvement.

      How about this, I am guaranteeing that next season which Canucks will be ahead of Oilers…in draft position. And Flames will also join in for the lottery party.

    • Serious Gord

      Certainly with the current line-up that is true.

      But if they get some physical players, a veteran d that can still play first line (Boyle, Charla?) and a goalie who blossoms into a top third of the league class (talbot? Et al). Then I think it reasonable to expect the team to be within 5 points of a playoff spot.

      And I think that relatively modest – short-term acquisitions are doable. I do hope that chiarelli doesn’t try and swing for the fences this off-season.

  • knee deep in it

    I think the oilers are close up front in having sufficient vets to sheild connor. They could easily play him on a line with hall and eberle, or pouliot and eberle

    on defence, it is another matter. we need two new vets to help the development of nurse and klefbom. without those tow new guys, we may as well leave nurse in the ahl

    • knee deep in it

      Personally I’d like to see Connor paired with a winger who plays with a bit of an edge, someone willing to step up and protect our future all-star. I suspect a few teams (every team) might just go after our new talent, physically.

      History is, many of our Oilers have been rather stand-off-ish (shamefully) when it came to protecting or stepping up on behalf of a linemate. We need some skilled beef, with toughness, to play with Connor.

      • 3rd Laraque From The Sun

        Drew Stafford is an UFA who plays both wings and is 6’2″ 215 lbs. The Oil need to sign this guy. And he’s still young enough to be part of the rebuild.

      • bradleypi

        So who’s this guy and who are you trading for him? Am I thd only one around here that’s absolutely drooling about watching hallsy play with connor??? Especially after the way hallsy played at the world’s. If hallsy can stay healthy next year, they are gonna be a fantastic duo imo. Hendy and gazdic can more than handle thd policing fof this squad. It also wouldn’t hurt to add a bruiser to the soft blue line also.

    • bradleypi

      Lol classic oilersnation, getting a shiny new toy and completely forgetting about the great toy they already have. The nuge played pretty well between pouliot and ebs down the stretch. There’s no way I break up that line to start the year. Imo it’s a no brainer that hallsy plays with connor. And I put yakupov on the other side and tell them to just go after it. Oilersnation needs to get the idea of 3 scoring lines outta there heads. There’s just not enough offense on this team. My ideal lines are…

      1st pouliot-nuge-ebs
      2nd hall-mcdavid-yak
      3rd Hendricks-gordon-klink
      4th gazdic-lander-purcell

      Lander gets lots of pp and pk time to make up for being on the fourth/energy line. I’d ideally like to see purcell traded for a banger and crasher to play in kinks spot on the 3rd line

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    If the Oilers are targeting Green that would be solid addition to the blue line. True #1 to run the power play for McLellan. #Buzz

    • Teeeb

      Mike Green was a 3rd pairing for the caps this year. He is not capable of handling #1 minutes on a good team,and would absolutely be lit up in Edmonton. For the money it would take,I would NOT sign this player. His 28 goals per season days,are long behind him. Trotz is a genius when it comes to D,and like I said,he was a 3rd pairing guy this year. He is not the piece we are missing. We need a big nasty sob,that can log 30 minutes a night. Mike Green is as close to that,as Justin Schultz. No Thanks

      • Joe Mamma

        Well put….Why people want to add more”soft and easy players to play against” to this roster is ludicrous. Winning doesn’t seem to be of any importance as long as they can see a “pretty goal” during a 6-3 lose. But no worries…The new and improved management won’t buy into that fluff.

  • Kevwan

    Interesting read Lowetide.

    The biggest difference is that McLellan took over a very good Sharks team in 2008. They were either 1st or 2nd in the Conference the previous 4 years. He will probably rely more on the rookies without having an established good lineup, I would think.

  • Kevwan

    With new direction I expect the Presidents Trophy first year , with all holes on roster filled . Book it ! Ten year anniversary gift after 9 years of misery .

      • bradleypi

        Lol how is it the exact same team? They are adding, imo, a guy who is better than 90% of thd league. Connor will get at least 80 points this year playing under coach McLellan and with hallsy flying up and down his wing. You can take that to the bank. This is not the same team at all. Last year only 1 scoring line, this year 2 scoring lines = different team

  • McNuge

    Avid reader for a couple years, First comment. Pls don’t break up pou/nuge/ebs, till they become stagnant. Hall goes down that line is productive, pou goes down still decent numbers, pou comes back you have one of the highest producing lines in the league. Nuge and ebs being the forefront. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Let hall drive his line nuge drive his till, mcD is comfortable and sit back and enjoy the ride. Not to mention that kid with the gap in the teeth that is the second coming of chris pronger, Darnell will not be denied. Finally a great time to be an Oilers fan.

  • McNuge

    Be nice to be in position which I think will will be, to sit back and hypothetically talk about other teams lottery picks. Although cautious I am for once convinced, we have a completely competent , proactive management group that can evaluate talent and improve this team to be competitive

  • McChickenpi

    I want to see what everyones ideas are for our blue line. Who’s in and out. Who should Chia bring in.

    The Oilers are not getting Seabrook.
    And it will cost too much to pry anyone else away from other teams. I would be okay with nothing that includes moving any of our players under 26 on this team. It just doesn’t make sense as nobody is at the peak of their trade value. Bad asset management to move any of these potential stars for anything that is not impossible to say no to. Like McDonagh for Eberle. You would have to do it, but it would never happen in ever. So stay the course. I would trade picks, not including a first rounder, for Andy Greene. Not the sexiest name but he is a veteran and is responsible as they come. Devils are in rebuild mode and only have 48 Mill committed to next season.

    So… 2 2nd rounders, a prospect,Nikitin for Greene. Maybe it takes more. I don’t know, but I would definitely pull the trigger on some rendition of this trade.

    Sign one of Franson, Martin, Sekera, or Mike Greene. Everyone on this site has suggested this move twice but I really do think it is what we need in order to solidify our corps without giving up assets. Sign whichever guy will sign for three years at 4.5 M or a 5 year for 4 M. Except Martin, he only gets a three year offer. Greene, I would give 5.5 M at 4 years.

    Anyways, say its Sekera for this case study.

    Greene//Klefbom 6 M
    Nurse//Fayne 4.5 M
    Sekera//Ference 7.75 M
    Schultz 3.6 M

    You can add a Dman as needed. I think Nurse will need half season in the Ahl. Try to pull off a Garth Snow in November or December, solidifying the Defense. Then its a top 4 of Greene,Fayne,Sekera and someone of Staal’s ability.

    Cap hit after we add the ‘Stall’ type, using his salary as a comparable, would be 27.85 M. It would than drop by 3.25 M when Ference is out of here and your top 4 has Nurse and Klefbom comfortably in the mix.

    Use the Pitt 1st rounder to draft a dman that will be able to step in in 2018 on the cheap and replace one of our vets. I am willing to use almost any pick we have except our 1st overall and the Pitt this year. Other than that, trade em all for the next three years. Get Schultz value up with PP and easy minutes until Nurse is ready to play full time in the big leagues. Trade him for whatever you can get. Maybe include him in the ‘Garth Snow December’ move and retain some salary.

    What does everyone think. I think this is the perfect mix of stop-gap, veteran leadership for our current youth and long term solution for a contending team.

    Long one. Sorry guys. Fridays are for the wobbly pops. Am I right?

    • Teeeb

      We all have seen a million of these dreamed up scenarios. Please stop, but if you feel the need to express what you did to your NHL 15 team then please keep it short. Its too painful to read that much dribble.

  • McNuge

    I like it. The only change I would make personally being an arm chair GM, is grab Michlalek/ paired with nurse. Nice safety net and a solid pro to give nurse time to mould his game. Not a top 2 Dman but a great shutdown down guy that can give nurse some rope.

  • hagar

    Can everyone back off acting like a bunch of dorks until the season starts? Why not just have quiet confidence in the changes? Why talk like the world has been swapped upside down without one single game being played?

    How many years does it take for you guys to learn your lesson? Just be humble, and hope things work out!

  • McNuge

    A flair for talents is a one of the many excellent features of Mr. McLellan. No Bonsignores in the future. Man who doesn’t fly in the clouds. A realist, with sober assessment of the players’ grade. Dudes desperately needed that coach. Finally stranded caravella find a decent helmsman. Leader who will pull it from the shallows for the new triumphant cruise

  • hagar

    New gm? Check

    New coach? Check

    Worst performing team in oilers history? Check

    We don’t even know if PC has the power we think he does yet. This team has years of mind F’uvks.. let’s slow the the role until things happen.

  • Teeeb

    We now have experienced, successful senior management for the first time in may years. I think it is safe to assume they will make better decisions than the previous. They all have one thing in common, they are coming into a broken team. They don’t have to turn the ship around overnight but can blame the previous regime and take their time which should translate into moving up rookies when the time is right rather than to get immediate results. I also believe they have a better sense of when to move them up.

    Better understanding of when to move the rookies up – Check
    More patience as they are cleaning up after others – Check

    Don’t think we make the playoffs this year but next and then for a very long time after that.

    Really looking forward to the deal flow (trades, UFA, rookie movement) this summer/fall. Fun times!


    Lowetide, IMO the coach has little say in the decisions of what players are brought up/down from the minors, that’s Chiarelli’s job. I think if Draisaitl and Nurse perform well in the pre-season games, the Oil will pencil them in at least for the first 9 reg. season games. If we had Nelson from the start of last season we would have been a 500 team at the least and Draisaitl/ Nurse might have been better also. Mclelland is even better than Nelson so I think we will have way more wins than losses this season.


    Flamers fans are in for a rude awakening this coming season. It will no longer be a cake walk playing the Oilers like years past. Without our help last year the Flames would not have made the post season.

  • @kahmad92

    Years ago during the Oilers glory days the fans were incredibly smug. They took great pride in their Oilers and were very hard on the fans of other teams. Oilers fans adopted the attitude that they were “entitled” to having a truly great hockey team.

    Soon enough the hockey gods decided that Oiler fans had become far too obnoxious and the days of hopeless, hapless hockey came to be. Up until April 18, 2015 we were still suffering from the hubris associated with the golden era of Oilers hockey. The Lottery win was the hockey gods finally saying that we get a second chance.

    Now we are hearing from numerous posters how great the Oilers are, how many Cups we will win, insults flying out to other franchises etc. etc. etc.

    Some children never learn. As fans we should remain humble, patient and respectful. Oiler fans should be classy. Please give t a try.

    • Joe Mamma

      Riiiiiiiiiight. The last nine years were punishment from the mythical hockey gods for our “arrogance”. Had nothing at all to do with piss-poor management and the culture of nepotism.

      Give me a break. Canucks, Flames, and Leafs fans are all a million times more obnoxious and classless than Oiler fans, so please spare us the morality lesson.

      If having quiet, inoffensive fans won you anything, Ottawa would have 10 cups by now.

  • @kahmad92

    D-men development usually takes a longer curve than forwards, and Nurse is no exception! On everyone’s mind, they were hoping that the Oil will be contending in the near future, but it would be unwise to rush a ‘Nurse’ to the ‘Bigs’ without letting him develop fully to a top 2 d-man he’s capable of. Have patience, with the right management group in place, we shall see a competitive on ice in a couple of seasons, just in time to move into the brand new ‘Home’!!!

  • @kahmad92

    The oilers have fast tracked some players, you have to remember that most in the last 4-5 years have been very high draft picks. Top teams don’t pick high draft picks and so it’s common sense that their prospects tKe longer. Having said that, Yak would have benefited from a year in the AHL but that is water under the bridge. This draft only their 1st pick will start the season on the big team. It looks like the AHL team will be a different team next year and some contracts will expire as they are collecting too many prospects. There will be at least 3-5 players that were either junior or college players last year on the new AHL team. Interesting times ahead.

  • Joe Mamma

    We need a guy or two like Glass. Last night he went to sort out a guy that took a run at a fellow Ranger without a second thought. The TB guy (can’t remember who) was so scared he wouldn’t even look at Glass. McDavid will need to have that kind of support (no more broken hands please). I am so sick of seeing our talent get run over and pushed around. We now have speed and skill time to inject some size and toughness.

    sorry off topic, just my two cents.