Ryan Warsofsky

Why new Sharks coach Warsofsky is equipped for challenge that awaits

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Editor's Note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California’s Sharks coverage. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @Sheng_Peng.

Newly hired Sharks coach Ryan Warsofsky has a daunting challenge awaiting him.

This past season, San Jose became the second-worst team of the NHL's salary cap era with a .287 points percentage. Their negative-150 goal differential was the worst by any team since the 2005-06 season.

They arguably were the worst NHL team of the last three decades. So, it's a floundering group that Warsofsky will have to guide back toward the light.

A Sharks assistant coach under David Quinn over the past two seasons, Warsofsky doesn’t have any NHL head-coaching experience. However, the 36-year-old did lead the AHL’s Chicago Wolves to the 2022 Calder Cup and the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays to the 2017 Kelly Cup Final.

Leaguewide, Warsofsky is regarded as a bright and up-and-coming coaching mind. There’s a reason why the Sharks interviewed him for the top job before opting for Quinn in 2022 and the New Jersey Devils talked to him for their head-coaching job this past summer.

In speaking with various sources about the hire -- including Sharks defenseman Henry Thrun, Washington Capitals coach Spencer Carbery, and Wolves front-office executive Wendell Young -- three things stand out about Warsofsky.

San Jose hopes those three keys unlock a bright future for a franchise that’s been in the dark for a half-decade.

Relationships

Warsofsky will have to forge a strong relationship with his stars of the future -- presumptive 2024 No. 1 draft pick Macklin Celebrini, Will Smith, William Eklund and more.

“He’s a relationship coach. Players will love [him],” Young told San Jose Hockey Now via text message Thursday. “Can be tough on them but fair. Not a demeaning coach.”

This echoes what Young told SJHN two years ago, when the Sharks tapped Warsofsky to be an assistant coach: “He is a caring coach. First and foremost, it will be about what they are off ice, then trust will be built over time.”

Thrun worked directly with Warsofsky this past season — Warsofsky ran San Jose's defense and penalty kill — and the 23-year-old rookie believes his new head coach will have a strong relationship with the team.

“Ryan is well-liked and respected throughout the room. He connects with both our younger and older players,” Thrun said. “I think the guys will be excited about this hire.”

Going back to Quinn, he was given a bad hand, but in the end, he couldn’t get the entire locker room behind him. Maybe Warsofsky will have better luck?

“He gets all to buy in as he has their back at all times,” Young said. “Players will feel secure.”

Development

That said, it is a youth movement in San Jose, and Warsofsky, first and foremost, will have to help Celebrini, Smith, Eklund, Thrun and Co. exponentially improve.

Warsofsky has a track record of developing winning players in the minor leagues. Jalen Chatfield, Jack Drury, Seth Jarvis, Pyotr Kochetkov, Steven Lorentz and Tommy Novak are among the NHL players who grew up under “Warso.”

“He’s tremendous at teaching, motivating and relating to young players,” Carbery, who hired Warsofsky for his first pro coaching job in South Carolina in 2013, told SJHN. 

“He recognizes players’ strengths,” Young said. “Look how many players had career years for us, and not just point-wise.”

Communication

Young believes Warsofsky will bring “hard work and great systems” to the Sharks. Perhaps just as important, though, is Warsofsky’s ability to communicate his message and system.

One of Warsofsky's former players corroborated that. When asked about Warsofsky, the first thing that came to mind for this player was that Warsofsky’s message always was loud and clear.

A player agent noted that he enjoys talking with Warsofsky about his clients, because whether the message is positive or negative, it’s always crystal clear.

“Players love playing for him,” Carbery said.

Thrun sounds like he’s already a fan: “[Warsofsky has] proven at every level that his coaching can produce success both at a team and individual level.”

Since firing Peter DeBoer, the last head coach to lead San Jose to the playoffs, the Sharks have hired and fired Bob Boughner and Quinn, after little success. They hope the third hire will be the charm.

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