Willis: 'I think Buffalo is a good fit' for Todd McLellan

Jonathan Willis from The Athletic: Edmonton joined Schopp and the Bulldog to talk McLellan rumors and more

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April 08, 2019 - 5:47 pm

Photo: Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports


It is Day 1 of the post-Phil Housley era as Buffalo Sabres head coach, and the organization is wasting no time getting their search going for their next bench boss.

Multiple reports surfaced on Monday, including one from TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie about the Sabres being linked to former San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan. McLellan began his coaching career with the Sharks in 2008, and went on to lead his team to six straight appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After missing the playoffs in his seventh season with the team, McLellan was fired in San Jose, and then picked up by the Oilers shortly after. In parts of four seasons in Edmonton, McLellan led the Oilers to just one playoff appearance in 2017, and was fired after just 20 games in the 2018-19 season.

For more on McLellan, along with some Buffalo-Edmonton trade discussion, Jonathan Willis from The Athletic: Edmonton joined Schopp and the Bulldog for the latest inside scoop from an Edmonton perspective.

Here is some of what he had to say:


Willis on McLellan's coaching tendencies:

"McLellan tended to go with a top-heavy lineup. It was something he always seemed to struggle with, especially when he had to put together a competent third or fourth line. I thought what he did well, though, was avoiding scapegoating players... He seems to treat his players with a lot of success."


Willis on differences between McLellan's Sharks and Oilers teams:

"Special teams was a major strength of his teams in San Jose, but McLellan's Oilers struggled on the man advantage. The powerplay was inconsistent at best, and the penalty kill was bad."


Willis on McLellan's potential fit with the Sabres:

"I think Buffalo is a good fit. He's been around the block and he knows what's up. He might not be the guy to lead you to the Stanley Cup, but he's not a guy that you'll find in the bottom-five. His system is geared to 70-30 puck battles. There's a clear plan to get the puck back. He really breaks down defenses well and sets the offense up to constantly pressure the defense... He can get stubborn, though. He seems to like the guys he likes. He does have a history with aggressive defense, but he's a strong fundamentals coach. In Edmonton, he didn't have the horses to get it done."


Willis on McLellan choosing between Buffalo and the LA Kings:

"Personally, I'd rather coach the Sabres than the Kings. Los Angeles is starting from further behind, just look at the age group of their top players."


Willis on how Rasmus Ristolainen looks to the Oilers:

"I think he's a bad fit in Edmonton. They already have a bunch of right-shot, offensive-minded defenseman on the way. They basically need to add an entire second line of forwards. If they were to trade [forward] Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, then they would be in need of four second-line players."


Willis on his experience with McLellan with the Oilers:

"McLellan said some things in Edmonton. To me, I read them more as an indication of the pressure he was feeling rather than a rejection of ideas. I wouldn't say he is super analytical, but I do think he's adaptable, accepting, intelligent and open-minded enough."


You can hear Willis' entire conversation with the Bulldog below.

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