March 1, 2015 By Paul Gackle

Sharks Hold Players-Only Lunch In Effort To Regroup After Loss To Sens

SAN JOSE — In the wake of the San Jose Sharks loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, head coach Todd McLellan was asked a not-so-simple question: where do you go from here?

The Sharks had just blown a 2-1 third period lead for the second game in a row and, as a result, they finished the month of February with an 0-6-2 record on home ice.

McLellan answered by saying that he didn’t know where to take it next, going into the locker room and having a big powwow was getting old. He said he needed time to sleep on it.

By the time the Sharks were scheduled to take the ice for practice on Sunday morning, McLellan’s players had provided an answer: they wanted to cancel practice to hold a players-only lunch at a location away from the rink.

“The players, this morning, gave us the short-term solution,” McLellan said. “At least for this morning.”

Alternate captain Patrick Marleau said text messages were exchanged among teammates in the aftermath of Saturday’s loss to the Senators. A team-only lunch was suggested as a way to deal with the team’s issues.

“I think, probably, I think it was Pav (Joe Pavelski) or something like that,” Marleau said, when asked who came up with the idea for the players-only meeting.

The players approached McLellan on Saturday and Sunday about canceling practice and he granted their wish.

“We spoke last night and a couple of the players wanted a day where they could gather and get the group together,” McLellan said. “We came in [on Sunday], we did some gym work, we did some freshening up with legs and that type of stuff and now they’re going on their own and their going to deal with some things, so it’s a good thing.”

Marleau said: “It doesn’t hurt in asking.”

McLellan didn’t hesitate to cancel practice to give his team a chance to discuss things internally.

“They asked for that time and we listened,” he said. “That’s part of being a leader.”

Why did the players want to hold a team-only meeting?

“Just trying to regroup, I guess,” Marleau said. “Just get together, have lunch, get ready for the next game.”

In the wake of last year’s 3-0 collapse in the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Los Angeles Kings, the Sharks stripped the captaincy from Joe Thornton and removed the ‘A’ from Marleau’s sweater.

General manager Doug Wilson said players approached him after the playoffs and said they felt more like co-workers than teammates.

Before training camp started on Sept. 19, the Sharks got together for a weekend in Lake Tahoe without the coaching staff to work things out amongst themselves. Eventually, the coaching staff restored Thornton and Marleau in the team’s leadership hierarchy as part of four rotating alternate captains along with forward Joe Pavelski and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Through January, the Sharks were in the thick of things in the Western Conference, holding onto second place in the Pacific Division. But after compiling a 3-8-2 record in the month of February, they’re now outside of the playoff picture, trailing the Calgary Flames by two points for third place in the Pacific Division and the Minnesota Wild by five points for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

With the trade deadline set to expire at noon on Monday, the Sharks could shake things up by either selling off players or making a move to bring in new personnel.

With Wilson’s reassertion that he’s committed to getting younger, it seems more likely at this point that the Sharks will be sellers at the deadline.

But for now, the guys in the room are going to try to figure things out on their own.

McLellan said he’s pleased with the ownership that his squad took by scheduling a team lunch.

“Through tumultuous times, you’re looking for that,” he said. “It goes back to the leadership — we’re looking for that. Who’s pulling the group together?”