General manager Jason Botterill has reportedly focused his trainer search on former Edmonton Oilers coach and San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
Bob McKenzie, of TSN, reported Monday afternoon that McLellan has not yet participated in contract negotiations with the Sabers, but is a leading candidate to become the 19th coach in the history of the franchise. Those conversations are expected to begin this week, when McLellan's son Tyson competes with the hockey team at the University of Denver at the Frozen Four at the KeyBank Center.
Eric Duhatschek, a Hall of Fame columnist who now works for The Athletic, was the first to report the interest of the Sabers in McLellan, but initially stated that the two sides were close to reaching an agreement. According to Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period, McLellan has already received a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings.
A source told The Buffalo News that the Sabers approached three-time Stanley Cup winner Joel Quenneville, but they knew Quenneville was about to accept an offer from the Florida Panthers. He was introduced as the team's coach during a press conference on Monday.
That would indicate that Botterill is looking for an experienced coach to replace Phil Housley, who missed the playoffs in each of his two seasons as coach of Sabers and finished with a record of 58-84-22. Housley was considered one of the best badistant coaches in the sport after he helped the Nashville Predators reach the Stanley Cup final, but Botterill acknowledged on Sunday that it can be difficult to learn at work.
McLellan, 51, was fired by the Oilers in November after a playoff appearance in more than three seasons as a coach, ending with a record of 123-119-24. He led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup playoffs in six of his seven seasons with the team, including consecutive appearances in the Western Conference Finals.
McLellan led the Sharks to his first presidential trophy during his first season in 2008-09, and ended his career as the Sharks' most winning coach in 2014.
The Oilers ended the league's second-worst record during McLellan's first season in Edmonton in 2015-16, only to reach the semifinals of the conference the following year. It was the first time since 1990 that the Oilers had an ice advantage at home and their first appearance in the playoffs in 11 years. He was fired in November after a 9-10-1 start to the season, and the team missed the playoffs by 12 points with Ken Hitchbad as coach.
His coaching career began seven seasons in juniors, including six with Swift Current Broncos from the Western Hockey League. McLellan spent a season with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League and four with the Houston Eros of the American Hockey League before being hired as an badistant by then-coach of Detroit Mike Babbad in 2005.
McLellan won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008 and was hired as the Sharks coach that summer.