SAN JOSE -- The milestone was easy to overlook March 14 because the Sharks were still gasping for playoff air. But on that night, Todd McLellan became the franchise's all-time winning coach with his 207th victory, a 4-3 decision over the Los Angeles Kings.

And what was McLellan's reward? Continued speculation about whether he'd even finish the season.

At that point, you see, the Sharks were scrambling for the eighth and last playoff spot in the Western Conference, and the hockey world was buzzing that McLellan's job was in jeopardy. Such conjecture was foolish, according to Sharks general manager Doug Wilson.

"There was never any question on that," Wilson insisted Saturday. "The question we were dealing with during that time was that we needed our players to play the way they needed to play, not the way they wanted to play."

As it turned out, the Sharks filled the need. They finished strong and were even stronger in the first round of the playoffs with a sweep of Vancouver. It happened partially -- perhaps primarily -- because of McLellan's choice to break up his top line and spread his primary scorers across three lines, plus his daring move in converting defenseman Brent Burns to a forward.

The word "creative" is not often used to describe hockey coaches. Usually, the adjectives run along the lines of "discipline-intensive" or "detail-oriented" or "frequently scowling." But if ever there were a season you could use "creative" in relation to a Sharks coach, this is the one.

"There was no doubt in my mind about Todd when I hired him," said Wilson, who brought McLellan aboard in 2008, "and I feel even stronger about it now."

It would seem time, therefore, to at least start the conversation about giving the guy a contract extension. But good luck with getting information about that.

During Wilson's term as general manager, which began in 2003, the Sharks have never disclosed contract information about coaches. It is believed, based on information from multiple NHL sources, that McLellan has one season left on his deal with the team. Wilson won't confirm this and hints that such information is incorrect but won't specify how or provide details.

McLellan prefers not to address the topic for the same valid reason Wilson cites: The Sharks' season is still incomplete. But without prompting, Wilson labeled McLellan and his assistants "probably the best coaching staff we've ever had."

That's quite a statement, considering that past Sharks head coaches have included Darryl Sutter (later a Stanley Cup winner with the Kings) and Ron Wilson (a two-time USA Olympic coach). Among former Sharks assistant coaches are such respected names as Wayne Cashman, Lorne Molleken and Warren Strelow.

The current Sharks assistant coaches are Larry Robinson, Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft. And it's clear they have combined with McLellan to guide the team into better playoff shape than anyone could have imagined two months ago.

All of this should mean that we will be spared the drama of a year ago. Remember? After the Sharks fell in five games to St. Louis in the first playoff round, Wilson would not commit publicly to McLellan until after an evaluation period. As it turns out, Wilson informed McLellan just a few days after the season ended that his job was safe but that some staff changes were going to be necessary.

McLellan could not have loved that idea. It meant that his longtime assistant and friend, Matt Shaw, would not return. McLellan assented, however, and the changes were announced later in the summer. Woodcroft was retained but assigned different duties.

The reshuffle worked, thanks to professional meshing by all involved through the ups and downs of this crazy lockout-truncated season. Wilson might well be correct in calling this the best staff in team history. But if that is true, it would hardly be prudent to have McLellan or his staff begin 2013-14 as a lame ducks.

In fact, Wilson surely will not allow that, even if he doesn't want to tell anyone. In terms of the best offseason reward for McLellan's performance, his record does all the telling necessary.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.