SAN JOSE -- The mission: Fix a Sharks penalty kill that last season was worse than every other NHL team's except the Columbus Blue Jackets, then had even less success in the playoffs.
The process: Add two defense-oriented minds behind the bench to help analyze the problem and design the solution. Bring in two new players -- defenseman Brad Stuart and forward Adam Burish -- with short-handed experience.
"I could talk about what we'd like to do up-ice and what we'd like to do on entries and faceoffs, but it would be a not-very-smart decision to share that," coach Todd McLellan said Wednesday. "The general theme is we'd like to be a more assertive, more aggressive penalty kill."
Both of the newly arrived coaches -- Hall of Famer Larry Robinson and
"I don't think there was a lot to fix," Robinson said. "I think we were doing a lot of things right."
What did the man with nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach think needed attention?
"Our positioning around the net," he said. "I thought that there were times we had the other team in a vulnerable position and we let them off the hook by not being aggressive. Little things like that -- stick positioning, body positioning."
Johnson identified the ability to anticipate a teammate's move as one area the Sharks needed to work on. "It does us no good when one guy pressures and the other three are kind of hesitant," he said.
And Johnson said the team had to develop a better understanding of when to be more aggressive. "You just don't pressure to pressure," he said. "You pressure to put people in situations where you then can jump on them."
McLellan said he doesn't expect things to be perfect.
No, he said, everything won't start out perfect.
"We'll make some mistakes. But over time, it's got to improve," McLellan said. "I mentioned to the players in camp that we all take a responsibility in it, starting with us as a staff."
Next on his list?
"The save percentage has to be better in the penalty-kill situation. There's just no other way of putting it," McLellan said. "But that doesn't fall purely on the goaltenders. It's what's going on around the blue paint when the shot goes there. And that means the d-men and the forwards have to collapse and do a better job."
While McLellan and his staff say they want to be able to rotate more players into the penalty kill to keep them fresh, how that applies to the top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski is something the Sharks have wrestled with for years. Short-handed minutes steal time from their use on the power play.
Complicating things is the fact the Sharks' top players win more than their share of faceoffs -- and faceoffs are huge at the start of every power play. A win and a clear can eat up about one-fifth of the penalty, McLellan said.
Players say they are picking up on the changes. And they recognize that everyone has a share of the responsibility.
"It's the whole team," Pavelski said. "Everybody's in the penalty-kill meetings, looking to get something out of it and probably see a little time in it."