San Jose Sharks general manager Mike Grier was asked about the connection between him, Boston University (BU) and their new coach David Quinn, as the two men sat side by side on the other during a press conference on Tuesday.
Quinn turned to him and said, “Did you go to BU? »
Grier burst out laughing.
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“It was not taken into account in the decision, he replied. It’s just the icing on the cake to be able to bring more former Terriers to the western United States. »
Quinn was hired as the Sharks coach on Tuesday and will have a second chance to coach in the NHL after being behind the New York Rangers bench for three seasons between 2018 and 2021. Quinn previously coached at the University of Boston, and that’s obviously where the story begins.
“Sometimes I needed to get out of the house and practice, so I would go to school and we would talk about hockey,” Grier said. He allowed me to learn from him. »
The two men – who first met when Grier was at Boston University and Quinn ran Northeastern University in the 1990s – used to chat about hockey on those summer days . It was back when the two had no idea they would one day work together and build on the philosophies they have in common.
“When I was coaching at BU, we spent a lot of time watching practices,” Quinn said. We talked before and after practice. Instinctively, we saw hockey very similarly. We have the same expectations. There will be disagreements, as there are with everyone in hockey, because it is a very subjective sport.
“What makes this situation unique is that we know each other very well. »
It all goes back to Jack Parker, Grier explained. The legendary Boston University coach coached both men as players: Quinn between 1984 and 1987 and Grier between 1993 and 1996. He helped develop both Grier and Quinn, later hiring Quinn as an associate coach . In the process, he laid the foundations that united Quinn and Grier as they discovered their commonalities in the way they saw hockey.
They realized they were on the same page when it came to ideas, ways of playing, concepts and philosophy.
“It’s for sure,” Grier said of the two men being on the same page. “It was an important part of the process, my way of seeing hockey and his. They fit well together. It doesn’t mean that we won’t challenge each other if we see things differently, in order to become better and progress. But it’s definitely something that came into play. »
They know it won’t be easy. The Sharks have just missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs three years in a row, having reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019, where they lost in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues.
Since then, San Jose has lost some of its biggest names and faces in its organization. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelsky and Brent Burns are all gone. The latter was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on July 13.
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This is without a shadow of a doubt a new era that is beginning for the Sharks. Grier and Quinn are convinced they are the perfect duo to lead them to this next phase.
“My coaching philosophy has always been relationship-based,” Quinn said. No matter what you do in life, if you don’t connect with the people you lead, whether you’re an office manager or a hockey team coach, you’re not going to get the most out of people around you.
“When the people you lead know that you care about them and want the best for them, you have a much better chance of getting the most out of them. »
That’s probably one of the reasons Grier hired Quinn.
And it does not stop there. John McCarthy was hired as coach of the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks’ academy in the American Hockey League (AHL), on May 18. McCarthy played under Quinn between 2005 and 2009, when Quinn was an associate coach at Boston University.
“The fact that he and I already had a relationship – and a tremendous amount of respect for each other personally and professionally – is going to make our relationship with the Barracuda unique,” Quinn said. We will communicate on a constant basis and there will be no surprises as to what is happening within our farm club in the American Hockey League. »
As for the NHL team, Quinn and Grier are realistic. The Sharks may struggle to score goals, like last season, when they ranked 30th in the NHL in goals-per-game average (2.57), ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers ( 2.56) and the Arizona Coyotes (2.51).
“We’re going to fight to try to make the playoffs,” Grier said. If we don’t, at least we’ll know we’ve been competitive all season. During each game, the team will have provided an effort of which we can be proud. If we don’t manage to participate in the playoffs in this context, so be it. »
Quinn used the words “tenacious”, “pace” and “aggressive” to describe the team he wants to lead, a team that would be “ultra-competitive”, to use his words.
“A lot of the answers are in that locker room,” Quinn said. We want to get everyone to be a little better. We are not asking a player to go from five to 40 goals. We’re not going to ask a player to do something they can’t do. But what we want is for everyone to do their job just a little better.
“If 23 players are five to ten percent better, it’s the difference between making the playoffs or not. »