Peter DeBoer has friends in high places and, at least in part, that's why he is the Sharks' head coach today.
During the 2011-12 season, Larry Robinson was an assistant under DeBoer with the New Jersey Devils. Robinson, now the Sharks' director of player development, had a big hand in helping his old boss land his new gig.
“We're very fortunate to have one of the most respected men in hockey, who's been a part of our staff, coached with Peter and went to the Stanley Cup Finals, and that's Larry Robinson,” general manager Doug Wilson said of the Hall of Famer at a news conference at the SAP Center on Thursday.
“Larry Robinson is not only respected as a player, but as a coach, [he won] nine Stanley Cups — six as a player, three as a coach. And his character reference and his knowledge of working side-by-side with Peter had a lot to do with it.”
DeBoer had a 217-200-77 career record in stints with the Devils and the Florida Panthers. His teams advanced to the playoffs once in seven seasons.
Robinson isn't the only prominent member of the organization who has ties to DeBoer, who guided the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals three years ago.
“Another guy who had a huge impact on us is one of the most beloved players we've ever had here, and that's Adam Graves,” Wilson said of the former Sharks forward, now a special assistant with the New York Rangers. “Adam was probably one of the strongest references for Peter. That meant an awful lot to us.”
The opinions of Graves and Robinson had as much, if not more, to do with the hiring as that of Wilson himself.
“You really learn from listening and, for me, it was really important to have people who I have great respect for not only as hockey people but as knowing people and their character,” Wilson said. “And yes, I tapped into all of those and really relied upon them.”
As DeBoer aims to get the Sharks back into the playoffs after the team landed in 12th place in the Western Conference a season ago, he will also be able to call on familiar faces on the ice.
Earlier this month, DeBoer was an assistant on the Team Canada squad that won the Gold Medal at the World Championships. Brent Burns, who is entering his fifth season with the Sharks, was a major contributor to the team.
“[Burns] was the most valuable defenseman in the tournament,”said DeBoer, 46. “He's a pleasure to work with. I love his attitude. I love his energy.”
DeBoer also has a history with veteran mainstays Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who lead the team in years of service.
“Patrick barely remembered it, but I had him and Joe Thornton on an under-18 team. It would have been 17 years ago, if you could believe that. It was a long time ago,” DeBoer chuckled.
DeBoer's track record with the trio of veterans can only help as he embarks on his first season in San Jose. Yet it's his former assistant who promises to be his most valuable ally.
“I'm going to rely on him heavily,” DeBoer said of Robinson. “He's one of the smartest hockey men that I've been around.”
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