Predicting the next coach for the Sharks

Okay, it’s probably less of a prediction and more of a guess.

Let’s just say from the beginning that San Jose won’t land Mike Babcock. My guess is that Babcock will stay in Detroit, and if he leaves Detroit, I expect the most likely destinations will be Toronto or Philly.

I’ve been watching the pundits talking about possible candidates. As usual, the Sharks play their cards close to their chest and don’t say (or leak) much. The first name that came to my mind was former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, but I haven’t seen much chatter indicating he’s being considered by the Sharks or anyone else.

Some of the names that are surfacing are interesting: Ken Hitchcock, currently with the Blues, seems to be in the same “considering my options” limbo as McLellan was; same with Dave Tippett in Phoenix. Um, Arizona. Peter DeBoer is also being whispered as a candidate.

The most interesting name that’s surfaced is former Shark Rob Zettler, who has been coaching the Syracuse Crunch for the last two years, and prior to that, the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey league. Zettler played with Wilson on those early, awful Sharks teams so they know each other well. He was considered a very good coach in the WHL and his two seasons in the AHL show about a .500 record, but a big improvement in his second season and a return to the playoffs.

One other name that came to mind the other day is Tony Granato, another former Sharks player and former coach in Colorado that’s been an assistant in Detroit. I wonder when or if he’ll get a second chance to be in charge behind the bench.

Any of these names would honestly be strong coaches for the Sharks. I find myself particularly drawn to Ken Hitchcock, but there’s a fond spot in my heart for Rob Zettler; we met him a couple of times during the Cow Palace years and he came across as an interesting and nice guy and I love rooting for folks like that.

So let me come out and say I hope the Sharks bring Zettler in and give him his first chance behind the bench. I think it’d be an interesting experiment — and let’s take that one step further and suggest he bring in Tony Granato and Mike Sullivan (both ex-Sharks and both ex-NHL-coaches now working in varying capacities — Sullivan in Boston and most recently assisting in Vancouver). I’d also love to see the Sharks bring Roy Sommer over to the NHL team as an associate coach, as he’s more than earned that promotion. With the Worcester Sharks becoming the San Jose Barracuda next year, maybe it’s time to bump Roy up stairs in some new capacity and bring in some of the Sharks that have been doing player development and give them control of the bench in the AHL.

On the other hand, if we end up with Hitchcock, I won’t be upset…

(for what it’s worth, it’s looking a lot like McLellan will end up in Edmonton, which a month ago I never would have guessed, but some very positive and interesting things are happening up there, and that’ll be a team to watch next season. The one thing that might derail that is Babcock leaving Detroit, and I have to wonder if the Red Wings would make a play for McLellan if that happens).