After a period of no news coming out of the Tank, now we have a minor flood of information. First up is an article in the Mercury News by Mark Purdy in which he interviewed Todd McLellan and his ideas on what he plans to do with the team. I would provide a link to the article, but it has become for registered users only. Here are a couple quotes:
"Obviously," McLellan said, "we'd like Patrick Marleau to have a better year than last year. We'd like Jonathan Cheechoo to be shooting the puck into the net every night, if possible. But realistically, the back end has to give us a little bit more. And they'll be challenged to do that. And we'll try and give them a way of doing it." McLellan has the numbers to prove his point. In studying the statistical charts from 2007-08, one number popped out at him: shots taken by defensemen. Detroit, the best team in the league, had more than 800 shots from the blue line. Sharks defensemen took only 536 shots."
"Where does Joe Thornton belong? Should he go to the net more often, especially on the power play? Or should he stay put in his own "office," along the half boards? "If the puck's not at the net, why go there?" McLellan asks by way of an answer. "If we get the back end that's prepared to put pucks through to the net, and we have people going there, we solve two problems. ... The question about whether Joe should be standing net-front or somewhere else ... I don't want Joe to be standing anywhere. I want motion. I want Joe to be moving. I want everyone moving. The unpredictability of where he might be would be a tough thing for teams to handle."
It sounds like McLellan already has plans for how to use the newest D-men on the team to increase the number of goals scored next season.
And maybe now, someone will pressure Joe to move away from his comfort zone and use that big body of his into some different areas. May we see JT parked in front of the net from time to time and generally moving around more to increase the unpredictability level of his play? That was one of my only complaints from Thornton and if he can make it happen, we can expect big results IMO.
There was also an interview with McLellan on KNBR in which he states his opinion on when players seem to become stagnant in their style of play. My favorite statement from him, "Sometimes players become robots, not players....I want to see the creativity come out of them again." It was an interesting interview to say the least and if you want a first hand account of what McLellan thinks, it's worth the listen.
Lastly, David Pollack is back to work and giving us a pre-training camp update for what to expect come Friday. Some of the news is quite interesting, yet may be disturbing to some.
Apparently, Semenov and Plihal have both been extended contracts and they are just waiting for the paperwork to be finalized. Sometime with European players these things take longer, but he says the contracts will be finalized by the start of the season. Directly connected to that, there is no word on who we can expect to see go based on the current/growing cap situation, but according to DW, that won't be determined until camp is at least underway and they've had a chance to get a look at the players on the ice. Also, Mclellan has been toying with the different line combos that he may use and will have that finalized by Friday too. There also seems to be some resolution as to what number Rob Blake will be wearing at camp. The official site for the Team has him listed as #5 and that's what he'll be wearing during practice sessions.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about Semenov. He definitely showed his weaknesses last season, but he is familiar with the team already and is used to sitting in the box when needed, as Pollack has noted in the past. I can see why he would be brought back, but I just hope that it's for cheap and he makes some improvements in his game. Plihal showed some nice skills and is still relatively young so I can understand him returning to serve as a filler type player when needed.
So far, I love what I've heard regarding McLellan's plans for the team, from the D-men taking more shot, to having more movement on the PP, and I can't wait to see what he puts up for line combos. Sounds absolutely great in theory, and should make for some very exciting play on the ice this season.
There are some additional tidbits of info too, if your interested.