Larry Robinson, a Hall of Fame defenseman who won six Stanley Cups playing for the Montreal Canadiens and three more in other roles with the New Jersey Devils, has been hired by the Sharks as an associate coach.
A formal announcement will come Monday, but there's no doubt the selection of Robinson, who helped steer the Devils into the Stanley Cup finals last month as an assistant coach, overshadows any player moves the team has made this offseason.
As associate coach, Robinson will be second in command to head coach Todd McLellan. A two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best blue-liner, Robinson is expected to be put in charge of not only the defense but also a penalty kill in need of a major overhaul.
Robinson sounded enthusiastic about working with McLellan.
"I've met Todd and asked a few questions to people who know him," Robinson told the Montreal Gazette, which broke the story Sunday. "Everybody only had great things to say about him, and they were right. First impressions are important to me, and my first impression of Todd was excellent."
When Robinson let it be known that he was not returning to New Jersey next season, several teams inquired about his availability, and there was speculation he might return to the Canadiens. When that didn't happen, an earlier Montreal Gazette story noted that Robinson was looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren, two of whom live in California.
The relationship between Wilson, who declined to talk about the hiring Sunday, and Robinson goes back to the mid-1970s when Robinson and Wilson's older brother, Murray, were teammates on the Canadiens. The Sharks general manager and Robinson were both on Team Canada in 1984.
Robinson, 61, had 208 goals and 750 assists in 1,384 NHL games over 20 seasons with Montreal and the Los Angeles Kings. In addition to being named the league's best defenseman in 1977 and 1980, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player in the playoffs in 1978.
After retiring as a player, he served in head-coaching and assistant positions with both Los Angeles and New Jersey, earning three more Stanley Cup rings with the Devils as a head coach, assistant and consultant.
Two of the Sharks defensemen with whom Robinson will work welcomed the news.
"I don't know him as a coach, but I think what he's done speaks for itself, both as a player and as a coach. He's had success," Dan Boyle said. "Everybody thinks the game differently, as players, as coaches. It's another brain to pick at and listen to. I think it's going to help the players, it's going to help Todd."
No current Shark has been coached by Robinson, but Jason Demers said Colin White, now an unrestricted free agent, used to talk about his time with Robinson in New Jersey.
"He always had great things to say about him," Demers said. "Everything he said about him was really positive, that he's a players' coach and all that stuff. For sure it's exciting to see what kind of dynamic he's going to bring and how it's going to change things."
Demers grew up in Montreal, though he was only 3 when Robinson retired. Still, he remembers watching highlights of his career with his father.
"My dad was always a huge fan of his and for sure talks about him," Demers said. "A lot of guys wanted to model themselves after him."
For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks.