SAN JOSE -- If the NHL lockout ever ends, things will be a little more crowded behind the Sharks bench during games.
The disappointment of last season prompted wholesale changes to coach Todd McLellan's staff, and the game plan developed over the past two months calls for four coaches, not three, calling the shots on game night. A new analytical role has been carved out for Jay Woodcroft, the lone holdover assistant.
"There'll be some new ways of breaking down shift quality and looking at the stall points or the attack points," McLellan said. "It may help us recognize quicker who's playing well and who isn't."
The newcomers to McLellan's staff are legendary NHL defenseman Larry Robinson as an associate coach and Jim Johnson, who logged 829 games on the blue line, as another assistant. Both will have primary responsibility for the defense and the team's troubled penalty kill. Woodcroft and McLellan will work more closely with the forwards and power play.
The lockout has taken a toll on the coaches.
"We want to work," McLellan said. "Our bodies, we're like players. We're on a schedule, we should already be going."
Instead, they are watching the Sharks' development team in Worcester, Mass. And they hit the road one coach at a time.
Coaches could simply watch prospects on video, but McLellan believes there's more value in being inside the rink.
"I personally like to see and feel and hear and sense what is going on with our minor league team," he said. "But you can't be there forever. They also need a little bit of space to breathe."
Beyond the trips to Worcester, the coaches are grabbing games where they can. Johnson's son plays for Minnesota-Duluth, and dad has been able to see a game or two. McLellan planned to accompany his son Tyson's Junior Sharks team to Chicago for a tournament -- and take in an AHL or college game as well.
McLellan said he and his staff won't be watching games with an eye toward upcoming drafts. That, he said, is strictly the domain of scouting director Tim Burke and his crew.
"That can be very dangerous if we get involved and maybe see a player once or twice and have a real strong opinion on him," McLellan said. "We know our boundaries."
For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks.