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Boughner, Thompson & Madden on What They’re Adding to Sharks



We’ve heard from Doug Wilson — who spoke on why he brought back Bob Boughner and how much owner Hasso Plattner is willing to spend next year earlier today — now it’s time to hear from the San Jose Sharks new coaching staff.

Head coach Boughner, associate coach Rocky Thompson, and assistant coach John Madden touched on a variety of topics.

Boughner’s Checklist

What boxes did Thompson and Madden check off for Boughner?

The San Jose Sharks’ ninth head coach explained:

“I wanted former players who played the position, both Rocky as a defenseman and John as a forward. Guys who had NHL experience [coaching]. John in Florida and in the AHL for the Columbus organization, Rocky with the Edmonton Oilers. Guys who had a winning pedigree.

“Rocky’s won an OHL championship and a Memorial Cup as a junior coach in Windsor. Had a lot of success in Chicago, not only developing players, but getting [the Wolves] to the Final.

“John as a player, he’s won three Stanley Cups and a Selke Trophy.”

“Guys who have had experience developing young players in the American league.

“From a player’s point of view, you see a guy like Rocky Thompson and John Madden come into the room, they have instant credibility. Both played, both have coached, both have experience. And they’re just good people. That will be infectious moving forward with what we’re trying to do.

“Both guys had interest from other teams, other organizations trying to lure them in. When I sat down and talked to these guys about our team, both were very well-prepared in our interviews. It was important for me that they believed that we have a team here that has a lot left in the tank.”

Copycat Success?

Boughner pushed back on the idea that the San Jose Sharks should be looking to emulate winning teams like the Dallas Stars or New York Islanders, emphasizing, “As a coach, you look at your personnel, and ask what kind of team are we? Then you create a style of play that will be most successful for that personnel.”

On the Stars specifically, Boughner pointed out, “You look at a team like Dallas. You look at their style of play, but the thing that’s most important to me, the style of play that matches your personnel. Dallas is really heavy in the blue paint in the offensive zone, really heavy in the blue point in the defensive zone. They’re built for that.”

So what are the Sharks built for? Boughner wasn’t giving away the store, but hinted, “I will say there will be changes in our system play in all three zones. Special teams. I believe we have found the style of play that we want to play.”

Bob & Rocky

Boughner and Thompson know each other well — Boughner hired Thompson to coach the Windsor Spitfires in 2015. Thompson led the Spitfires to the Memorial Cup before taking the Chicago Wolves’ head coaching gig in 2017.

Thompson will be expected to transform San Jose’s 23rd-ranked power play.

“The one thing with Rocky: We’ve talked a lot over the last couple years. I’ve watched what he’s done in Chicago, his power plays,” Boughner said. “When we talked about this job, what he thought about our power play, he brought me through all his ideas, and what he’d bring in new and what he’d change.”

Thompson shed some more light on these discussions: “Boogie and I, we went through the analytics. Things I’ve done in the past the American league and juniors, I still believe would work at the NHL-level. And Boogie agreed. We kind of showed him a package of those things and how we could take advantage of the strengths of our players.”

So what will Rocky do differently with the Sharks power play? A month ago, we broke down some Chicago Wolves’ power play breakouts with a former NHL coach.

“We need to have more of an attack mentality against the opposition, not always looking for the pretty play,” Thompson said. “It’s simple. But at the end of the day, we’re going to have creative ideas for those players. I think they’re going to love it.”

Thompson, who’s also running the defense, sounds like he’ll also be changing things up there: “I’m really excited about coming out of the box a little bit and playing to their strengths. I’m big time on fundamentals and how a defenseman plays with their stick and their body position. Those are things that can definitely be improved.

“But I think we have a great group and we can take the reins off of them, so to speak, while still have structure and being responsible.”

Bob & Madden

It was sliding doors in Florida for Boughner and Madden. When Boughner took over as Panthers head coach in 2016, he was replacing a staff that included Madden.

Long-time rivals on the ice, Boughner’s interview of Madden was their first significant interaction. It was also, in hockey terms, love at first sight.

“John, when we sat down, he had a package ready for me. He said I’ve done some research, I have some analytics,” Boughner said. “The things that came out of that for me: He’s very prepared. Strong work ethic. Believes in the same things that I believe in to win. He brings a winning pedigree.

“I thought I knew him forever after we got off the interview. I called Doug and said I think we found our guy.”

Part of their instant chemistry?

Boughner asked Madden who his favorite head coach was. Madden cited Pat Burns — who led Madden’s 2003 New Jersey Devils to the Cup — which was up the new head coach’s alley.

“[Pat Burns] got the best out of every player,” Madden offered. “He treated every player fairly. The one thing that he had was respect.”

Madden, for his part, was impressed by what he saw out of the Sharks penalty kill this year: “When I watch and go through the analytics, it’s amazing how much structure there. How well they trigger. There are so many good aspects and details to their game.”

He’ll also be working with the San Jose forwards and Boughner expects the former Selke Trophy winner’s attitude to rub off on the Sharks: “[John] built a career around being a detailed hockey player and that’s no different than how he approaches his coaching.”

Second Time’s the Charm

Wilson is looking for Boughner to emulate the success of second-time head coaches Mike Sullivan, Craig Berube, and Bruce Cassidy.

Boughner is expecting the same too, speaking with all three this summer: “Asked them to share their experiences about what was different the second time around.

“There’s going to be a lot of things that are different. Not just in the systems pack we’re working on. You’re going to see a different identity when we hit the ice.”

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