I recently started looking at some of the underlying numbers the Sharks posted with McLellan behind the bench, mainly to get a sense of what we can expect next year from the Oilers. Without a doubt, McLellan is one of the elite coaches in the NHL, leading San Jose to a lot of regular season success.
What we know so far is that his club’s have been strong possession teams that took a lot of shots. The other day, I also found that his teams blocked a lot of shot attempts against, which shouldn’t be surprising considering some of the strong two-way players on the roster like Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski.
I also started digging into how often the Sharks had their shot attempts blocked. Having re-watched some of their games from last season, it became obvious to me that the Sharks love taking shots as soon as they enter the zone and look for second chances. They make a lot of short passes moving up-ice and really don’t let the opposition set up defensively, creating a lot of havoc.
Here’s a graph showing what percentage of the Sharks’ shot attempts (i.e., Corsi For) were blocked when the score was close during McLellan’s tenure. I also included the NHL average as well as the Oilers performance.
What we can see here is that the Sharks were quite good at getting their shot attempts through. It could be that the team was good at setting up their plays and creating smart lanes to the net. It also confirms what I saw in some of their games: the Sharks were getting their shots in quickly before the opponent could set up, increasing their chances of their shot making it through.
On the flip side, you can see that the Oilers were brutal at getting their shot attempts through and were often one of the worst in the league when the score was close. This will be area that McLellan has to focus on, but it’s anyone’s guess if the current Oilers roster can handle the new attack plan.
I don’t think it’ll be as easy as just shooting more often. The plays that a team uses to advance the puck through the neutral zone and then gaining the zone will one of the critical factors. The good news is McLellan has a successful formula, but it’ll be up to him to deploy the right players at the right time to execute those tactics.