It’s official: Bob Boughner will be the San Jose Sharks’ new head coach.
Along with dropping Boughner’s interim tag, the Sharks also announced that associate coach Rocky Thompson and assistant coach John Madden will be filling out Boughner’s staff. Evgeni Nabokov is also the permanent goaltending coach now.
In the AHL, Roy Sommer will be returning to the San Jose Barracuda as head coach, while Jimmy Bonneau and Mike Chiasson will be his assistant coaches once again. Dany Sabourin is being brought in as goaltending development coach.
San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson, Boughner, Thompson, and Madden were made available to the media today. Look for multiple articles from San Jose Hockey Now today on this event.
First, let’s get to some burning questions from Doug Wilson’s perspective.
What Took So Long?
As far back as May, most observers assumed Boughner would have his interim tag removed.
Wilson wouldn’t say if he specifically interviewed anybody else for the head coaching position, though he did allude to always having a long, thorough coaching search process.
He did say it wasn’t until this week that things were finalized with Boughner.
“It’s not just Bob, it’s the type of staff that he built around him. When Boogie presented it to me, and we looked at it, I said you know what? I think you really acquired the right people with the ingredients you said you were going to find,” Wilson said.
That suggests keeping Boughner around was contingent on Boughner and Wilson seeing eye to eye on Boughner’s coaching staff.
Boughner went just 14-20-3 after replacing Peter DeBoer in December, failing to lift the San Jose Sharks back into the playoff picture.
Wilson, however, noted: “Bob did a tremendous job last season, getting our group back to playing with an identity and structure that we need in order to be successful. We saw a marked improvement in our play in several key areas during the second half of the season, before losing some key players to injury.”
Boughner and Wilson have talked before about how San Jose improved defensively in the second half of the season, shaving their Goals Against Per Game from 3.41 under DeBoer to 3.03 under Boughner. As the defense improved, however, the offense slid, going from 2.69 Goals For Per Game under DeBoer to 2.51 under Boughner.
It appears that Wilson is giving Boughner credit for defensive improvements, while citing season-ending injuries to Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Erik Karlsson for the corresponding offensive decline.
Boughner’s underwhelming two seasons as Florida’s head coach didn’t deter Wilson either.
“One of the thought processes of making this decision, much like Boston, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh, had head coaches come from within the organization, very familiar with the young players,” Wilson said. “It was the second coaching opportunities for Bruce Cassidy, Mike Sullivan, and Craig Berube, much like Boogie.”
Sullivan coached Joe Thornton in Boston for two years before waiting another decade to take Pittsburgh to back-to-back Stanley Cups; Cassidy had just a season and a half in Washington before waiting 14 years for a second chance with the Bruins; Berube got the better part of two seasons with Philadelphia, before helming the St. Louis Blues to the 2019 Stanley Cup.
“If you ask everyone [of these coaches], they’d say they did things a little different. Or they utilized some of the knowledge from the first time,” Wilson said. “They [also] came from within the organization, they knew a lot of the younger players.”
On Rocky Thompson
The Sharks power play was bad under DeBoer — ranked 23rd with a 16.0 percent success rate — and marginally better under Boughner — 20th at a 19 percent clip.
Thompson, who will be running the defense and the power play, is expected to inject new life into San Jose’s star-studded PP unit.
“Very creative mind. Very offensive-based, running a power play,” Wilson noted. “He will max out playing the way that matches the type of personnel that we have. Activating your defense, doing things differently on the power play. Rocky brings some great knowledge in that area.”
On John Madden
As bad as the power play was, the Sharks penalty kill was outstanding this year at a league-best 85.7 percent.
Madden will run the forwards and the penalty kill.
“Three Stanley Cups, won in college hockey. He’s a winner. Brilliant hockey mind. He coaches the way he played the game, all three zones, looking for edges,” Wilson said. “Boughner came to me, mentioned his name, interviewed him, then I did my research. He just fit the ingredients that Bob said he was looking for in a forward/penalty kill coach.”
Madden might have the most difficult job of them all: Boughner has to raise the 29th-best NHL team up, Thompson has to improve the 23rd-ranked power play, while Madden will be hard-pressed to improve on a league-best penalty kill
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