Doug Wilson, It’s Time for the Rebuild

doug wilson nhl
(Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE)

A Doomed Season

The San Jose Sharks are not winning the Stanley Cup this season. While this is probably not a surprise to most of my readers, it is something that general manager Doug Wilson needs to realize for the sake of his team’s future. Ultimate victory may be out of reach for now, but it does not mean that next season can’t be a breakthrough year. San Jose must rebuild.

(Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

At no time has this Sharks’ club looked like a true Cup contender. They have only  had four, three-game win streaks this season and their key statistics have declined significantly. As of now, San Jose is 17th in the NHL in 5v5 corsi-for percentage and are ranked 25th overall in 5v5 goals-for percentage. For comparison purposes, the Sharks were ranked fifth and seventh respectively in those departments last season. This club is nowhere near as good as the team that collapsed in the first round of the playoffs.

An atrocious offseason, poor lineup decisions, and inconsistent play have doomed the Sharks for the time being. If management wants their team to be competitive in the near future then they will need to sacrifice points now for contention later.

Rebuild at the Deadline

The trade deadline is on Monday, March 2– just four days away. With San Jose looking to be sellers this weekend, Wilson needs to summon his inner Billy Mays and trade a number of his unrestricted free agents in return for prospects or picks. It is better to deal the UFA’s now and get something in return for them than wait until the offseason and let them walk for nothing.

In my opinion, the following players should be moved prior to the deadline: Scott Hannan, Tyler Kennedy, James Sheppard, and Antti Niemi.

(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

This is not to say that the above players are unskilled; Sheppard and Kennedy have occasionally been bright spots in the bottom-six and Antti Niemi was nominated for the Vezina Trophy in 2013. However, they are not ideal in the Sharks’ lineup and it would benefit both the players and the franchise to go their separate ways. Of this group, Sheppard is the only person that I could see Wilson re-signing in the offseason. The only reason I think he should be traded is because he holds a lot of value to teams planning to make a deep postseason run. He is a fantastic player that can significantly help a third or fourth line on a team lacking depth.

Seasoning the Youth

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

While moving these current Sharks gives San Jose the opportunity to acquire draft picks and prospects for later on, it also provides them the chance to give their youngsters more playing time in the NHL. Skaters like Mirco Mueller, Barclay Goodrow, and Chris Tierney have all spent a large amount of time in the press box this season. This is the worst possible use for them. These rookies have the potential to be this franchise’s future, yet management is sitting them out of games instead of letting them season in the AHL or giving them experience in the big league. With open roster spots and practically nothing to lose, this is the perfect situation for Wilson and coach Todd McLellan to test out their younger players. My ideal lineup– written below– is what I believe is optimal for player development and could help build chemistry for the next season. Some skaters are hyperlinked to other articles that I used as a premise for my lineup choice.

Hertl – Thornton – Burns

Wingels – Couture – Karlsson

MarleauPavelski – Nieto

Goodrow – Desjardins – Tierney

Vlasic – Tennyson

Mueller – Braun

Dillon – Fedun/Irwin



San Jose Sharks goalie Troy Grosenick (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
(Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

What this extensive use of rookies does is set San Jose up for a win-win situation. On one hand, if the Sharks tank with this group then they get a higher draft position and have an idea of what needs to be done in the offseason to improve. On the other hand, if San Jose somehow does qualify for the postseason, then the young players will gain valuable experience performing in a playoff atmosphere. This team has little chance at making the playoffs, let alone winning the Stanley Cup, so experimenting with the lines and giving prospects more playing time can only benefit this squad.

Offseason Decisions

Last summer was a nightmare for Sharks fans. Rather than signing free agents that could have boosted the club to the next level, Wilson elected to offer deals to the likes of John Scott and Michael Haley, effectively making his team worse than it was the prior year. This year must be different.

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

First off, Scott and Tye McGinn need to go. They have provided nothing positive for San Jose and are a waste of a roster spot and cap space (little as it may be). Each time they dress for a game is robbery for the skilled and developing players that can actually make an impact on scoreboard. While I understand the need for a physical presence in a tight game, there is no reason to employ players who can do nothing else aside from it. Tommy Wingels and Andrew Desjardins are the ideal enforcers in San Jose– smart, responsible skaters that can do more than bang bodies.

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

While Scott and McGinn have been expected busts this season, there are a number of pending free agents that will fit well in next season’s roster. These skaters are Melker Karlsson, Brendan Dillon, Andrew Desjardins, Matt Irwin, and all notable prospects playing in the AHL. Karlsson has been a huge impact since his arrival in San Jose, Dillon is growing into his top-four role, Desjardins is an underrated depth player who has been plagued with terrible linemates, and Irwin is a good sixth or seventh defenseman that can fill in during injuries or cold streaks. They may not be star players, but they are who the Sharks need on their bench to deepen their youthful lineup.

Obviously, Team Teal would still have a number of flaws on their roster for the coming season if they took this path, the most notable of them being in the top-four defensive group and in net. This is where free agency really comes into play. San Jose would need to acquire a competent, right-handed defenseman to play on the second pair as well as a starting goaltender to replace Niemi.

Jeff Petry Oilers
(Nick Turchiaro/Icon SMI)

Some defensive free agents that the Sharks could pursue include Zbynek Michalek, Jeff Petry, and Michael Rozsival. Michalek and Petry have been rumored to be on the trade block lately, but if they do not get moved before the deadline then it is unlikely for them to be re-signed by their clubs. Meanwhile, Chicago is dealing with cap space issues and not re-signing Rozsival may be a way for them to gain some breathing room.

The riskiest part of this plan though is finding a netminder that can be considered an improvement over Niemi in free agency. Alex Stalock is not ready for the starting role in San Jose so it is vital for the team to sign a goaltender that can handle that kind of work load. Some possibilities are Viktor Fasth, Karri Ramo, and Jonas Gustavsson. The problem with these names is that they are unproven and may or may not be a better fit in teal than the Sharks’ Finnish goalie. This is in addition to the possibility that each one of them may be extended by their current team before free agency begins. While I am on the fence about moving Niemi, I don’t think Wilson well re-sign him, which is why I have put him into my analysis.

Next Season’s Lineup

With the above moves being done, the Sharks would be poised to make another serious run at Lord Stanley’s cup. This group would be younger, faster, and most importantly: hungrier. All of these factors could very well contribute to the team being elite once agin and propel them deep into the postseason. Come opening day, I would hope for a lineup like the one below:

Hertl – Thornton – Burns

Wingels – Couture – Karlsson

Marleau – Pavelski – Nieto

Goodrow/Goldobin – Desjardins – Tierney

Vlasic – Braun

Dillon – Michalek/Petry/Rozvisal

Mueller – Tennyson



This roster has skill throughout and could be incredibly dominant when compared to the lineup the Sharks have iced this season. Of course, rookies are a gamble. But, they are probably more skilled than many of the players McLellan has inserted into the group so far this year. At worst, the team is developing more for the seasons to come.

Other Options


There are two other options that could help San Jose in the future that I did not use in my plan. One of them is selling Desjardins at the 2015 trade deadline and putting Daniil Tarasov in his place for the rest of the year. Then, come the 2015-2016 season, rookie Nickolay Goldobin would be able to have a full-time roster spot on the fourth line with Tierney and Goodrow.

The other possibility is keeping and re-signing Niemi for another year to avoid having questionable goaltending next season. Niemi hasn’t been phenomenal this year, but he hasn’t been a total disaster and has come up with some huge saves. He may not be the best in the league, but with a better team in front of him he may be good enough to bring his squad to the Stanley Cup Finals.

While there are other beneficial ways the future can pan out for San Jose, each with their own set of risks and rewards, the worst thing this franchise can do is stand pat at the deadline and during free agency. Wilson seriously hurt this team with the terrible offseason last year. If the Sharks want to be contenders once again, then a change needs to happen. Developing players don’t improve by sitting in the press box, goons don’t produce offensive pressure, and aging defensemen don’t perform well on the blue line. This team isn’t good enough to win now, but with some key adjustments, they can improve dramatically in the 2015-2016 season. Mr. Wilson, you cannot sit idle while this team continues to flounder. It is time for the rebuild.

31 thoughts on “Doug Wilson, It’s Time for the Rebuild”

  1. Nice AHL defense and goaltending. You do realize those are the foundation of a hockey team….right?

  2. You lost me when you stated that a marginal NHL player James Shepard is a fantastic player. When people believe that a marginal player with no goal scoring ability is a fantastic player it makes one wonder what he is fantastic at, and how it helps the team. Is he fantastic at scoring? No, fantastic on defense? No , fantastic on the PP? No, Fantastic on the PK? Not according to statistics. But the bigger issue is the fact that anyone thinks that a player such as James Shepard could and would bring a Stanley cup championship to San Jose or anyplace for that matter. The fact of the matter is that their are 50-100 players of his ability in the AHL, he’s a dime a dozen player.

    • A team can’t be built around Shep but he is a great possession player on the fourth line. He struggles a bit on the 3rd though, but has shown glimpses of skill (like in the Goodrow-Sheppard-Karlsson line). From what I understand, the Rangers are interested in him and may be able to part with a pick or a prospect in return.

  3. The mere thought of Desjardins, Mcginn, or Kennedy being a Shark after this season defies the obvious. Neither Hertl, Tennyson, Irwin, Tierney nor Braun will ever be more than a work in progress with, for now and the near future, mediocrity being the ceiling. The Sharks have a highly skilled and resilient core of Karlsson, Vlasic, Couture, Burns, and Thorton. Mueller is highly suspect but worth another season, maybe. Marleau’s and Niemi’s meaningful contributions to this organization are past. (Without Niemi the Sharks would have been a shadow of even what they are now.) This team is simply not very good, and it was obvious against the Wings last night. Begin a rebuild in earnest with a different GM.

  4. My condolences to any goalie that plays for the Sharks. Undisciplined play by the forwards and straight up garbage defense by the defense will always allow you to look like shit. Niemi played a lights out game against Detroit leading 2-1 into the 3rd, and the Sharks let it slip away. The way Niemi was playing, the score should have been 6-2 Detroit. The way it’s been all year long. By the way can someone tell Scott Hannan, who looks like he’s in Pajamas while in uniform that it’s night night time? Time to hang it up.

  5. I hate you, you pessimist! The Sharks have a chance with still with 20 games left, you just have to believe…The season is not over yet and no one is going to give up on them yet not the players, mannagment, or fans. So F off with your negativity. HAVE YET TO READ A POSITIVE ARTICLE ON YAHOO ABOUT THE SHARKS, YOUR JUST TAKING THE EASY WAY OUT NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT!!!!! WHAT ABOUT 1980 USA BET YOU WOULD HAVE WROTE THAT THEY HAD NO CHANCE YOU PESSIMIST GO TO HELL!

    • Have you followed the team since 1991? Did you go watch them at the Cow Palace before the arena was built? Are your property taxes still paying the 30 year Bond for the venue? Can you afford a ticket to the game. Doug Wilson is what is wrong with and what has always been wrong with the Sharks. He’s been there too long, he has fired or traded too many coaches and players who left to win Stanley Cup(s) elsewhere in the NHL. Doug Wilson needs to leave. So F off with your complete unrealistic outlook – they haven’t a chance in hell.

  6. The writer has some valid points, the rebuild needs to begin now. But in order to complete a full rebuild the Sharks will need to rid themselves of anyone over 30. That list includes Thornton, Marleau and yes, Pavelski and maybe Burns. Those four would generate a wealth of young prospects and picks for the Sharks to start their rebuild. The Sharks would have to expect a couple of losing seasons, possibly bottom 5 finishes. If you look at all the teams that have won the cup in the last 5 years, mainly LA and CHI, they too had their bad years but were able to draft in the top 5 to grab their franchise players.

    The Sharks then can look to their current young players to help lead this rebuild and possibly expedite it. I would look to have Couture, Vlasic and Wingels as my group to pick for my captain/alternates. With what is already in place as far as young players, the Sharks situation is not horrific, like the Sabres or Oilers situation is. They have plenty of guys who I think can contribute up the middle, the defense is almost complete. Top 9 forwards are more available than any position, either through the draft or free agency. The only question mark is who can be the long term solution in goal?

    I would think that the return that 19, 12 & 8 could be huge. I would look to Nashville and see what it would cost to get Seth Jones, possibly for Pavelski, Thornton and Marleau could easily get us a top 6 winger blue chip prospect.

    Here is a projected line-up during the rebuild, don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t expect this line-up to win you a Cup or even make the playoffs, possibly even finish in the bottom 5th of the league. But in 2-3 years they would be a very deep and competitive team.




    2015 1st Rd.
    2016 1st Rd.

    • Look at the Cup winners from recent years. Every one of them has multiple elite players. Really elite. Think this goes back about 7 years since a couple teams have more than 1 Cup. Kane/Toews, Kopitar/Doughty, Chara/Bergeron, Crosby/Malkin, Datsyuk/Lidstrom. There have been other very good other players in the mix for those teams — Keith, Hossa, Carter, Quick, Zetterberg, etc.

      You can’t win without elite players. How do the Sharks get elite players? Its a tough road, especially if you aren’t drafting near the top.

  7. Drew, very good piece on the state of the Sharks. I generally agree with your sentiments however first and foremost DW needs to be removed from the GM job. He’s made a mess of this team in recent years and their potential playoff failure this year proves it !
    Secondly, the Sharks need a # 1 goaltender. Niemi is not the answer. He’s too inconsistent, making great saves occasionally but all to often letting in bad / easy goals which demoralizes this team. I agree that another top tier defenseman is needed. Burns could then be moved back to the first line with Thornton. (It was DW who moved Burns, not TMac. )
    Certainly, the Sharks have to be sellers before the trade deadline to get prospects or picks. A new system with new players is needed for the Sharks to be successful again !

  8. I like the idea of a rebuild, and especially moving Burns to forward once and for all. However, i’m not convinced Tomas Hertl is a first line forward – not this year, certainly, and probably not a top-6 skater next year either. He needs to improve along the boards and in front of, and behind, the next. Plus, he needs to be more accountable transitioning back on defense. All that said, I sure hope you have DW’s ear :)

  9. The rebuild should start with the GM. Wilsons pet projects and off season acquisitions have been crap. He’s proven time after time he is a horrible judge of talent and finding players that will fit well and add long term value to the team. The ownership seems so detached from the management of the team, Wilson has carte blanche to do what he wants with no accountability. Unfortunately, McClellan will take the fall.

    ps… Raffi Torres anyone?

  10. This is just my opinion and I know TMac is a great coach overall, but he should be fired. Maybe that might wake up the Sharks players and possibly have them going for the rest of the season, and maybe even make a deep playoff run. I know Sharks players have the potential to play hard, but I have only seen that for a few games these season.

    Inconsistency have been the major problem this season. A new system might be the one they really need to go into overdrive mode and get their legs going.

    • Ron Wilson won as many playoff series as Todd McLellan and he was coach of the team for 3 less seasons then the great coach. You do know that McLellan has a losing playoff record and his PO win pct is the worst of any active coach except for that of Bruce Bodreau.

  11. You can’t rebuild because that’ll mean a few years of losing seasons and a roster full of players that nobody has heard of. That will result in a less than half full SAP Center which will result in lost revenue.

    There’s a reason the Sharks haven’t rebuilt. That is because false hope and making the playoffs (even if it means getting bounced in the first round) keeps the butts in the seats and generates revenue. Ownership can’t stomach a half filled arena and lost revenue.

  12. Thank you Captain Obvious for pointing out that the Sharks will not be winning the Stanley Cup in 2015. After last season’s playoff collapse Wilson said there were going to be big changes. He let Dan Boyle walk and he signed John Scott, hardly big changes. Their goaltending has become very ordinary and however the replacements suggested for Niemi and Stalock are also very ordinary. Teams do not win championships with mediocore goaltending. The Sharks are going to be fighting for the last playoff spot in the western conference for probably a few years particularly if the competition in the western conference stays as strong as it currently is.

  13. DW is toast, after this season. This team is a direct reflection of his mgmt. style, attitude and personality. And that just don’t cut it in todays’ NHL. His 2 biggest mistakes? Giving both Marleau AND Thornton NTCs. It basically “killed” the team. With nothing to lose, both players have glided from game to game with no leadership (or even desire to lead – as evidenced by their total collapse in last year’s playoff loss to the Kings, both PM and JT were nowhere to be found). This team needs to be “blown-up” and re-started. My 2-cents.

    • Actually in hindsight it was a great move at the time to lock up 19 & 12 to under market value contracts with NMC’s. Where Wilson fucked up is when he hit the panic button and tried to move them after the season was over. He could’ve just added to what was already a good team. Instead he kept the crap (Hannan and Brown) and added more crap (Scott & McGinn)l; it was like subtraction by addition.

      • I actually agree with both you.. The no trade clause can be a death sentence when you have players that aren’t adding value. Although, I still love Thornton. But, I also agree they kept the crap and signed some worthless meat. Hannan has been complete crap and John Scott is a joke.

      • It’s funny that the crap you talk about, or better yet both the 3rd and 4th lines outscored 19 and 12 in games 4-7. Keep buying into what Wilson is telling you. Every single playoff season loss has resulted in the changing of players in the bottom 6, and yet ignoring those in the top 6. And yet the next season the same thing happens? Its just repeat, rephrase, repeat every single year with Wilson. The problem really begins because people subconsciously buy into this, and believe the problem are the 5 and 7 minute a game players. Mike Brown scored as many goals as Logan Couture in the playoffs last year. But its Brown’s fault we lost and has nothing to do with 12,19 and 39 who logged the most minutes on ice every single game. Now that makes sense.

      • This is just ludicrous. If DW made a “mistake” by wanting JT & PM out of SJ after the season; then it was even MORE of a mistake to re-sign them (at a discount or whatever), prior to the season (when they both got NTC’s). Neither player has EVER showed the GUTS to win anything (and it was the primary reason the B’s traded JT in the 1st place). Timing wasn’t the mistake DW made, it was actually re-signing these 2 cream-puffs AND give them NTCs to boot.

  14. It was strange what Wilson did this past summer. Calling out players for only wanting to be in San Jose for the lifestyle. Changes are a coming, he threatened. We’re going to get younger. He needs to call out McLellan for not realizing that shifting Burns back to defense wasn’t the answer. The young guys can’t develop when they’re healthy scratches. But, he only need so to look in the mirror to see the biggest problem of them all, HIMSELF. His moves were a joke. He turns out to be the boy who cried wolf. I think he’s the one that likes his lifestyle in San jose and ownership needs to fire him

    • Do you know who made the call on Burns to defense? My guess is that it wasn’t McLellan. I’d bet the author’s paycheck that DW promised that move to the owner and that TMc, as the good soldier, has had to eat that.

      • While I do not know for sure who’s call it was, I think it was Doug Wilson’s decision to move him back. Just by the way he and TMac handled, it gives me the feeling that McLellan was sort of against the change. This is just me analyzing how they spoke about the idea though; I do not have any definite information on that.

      • While I do not have any definite information as to who ultimately made the decision, I believe it was Wilson’s idea. Judging by the way they both spoke about and handled the situation, McLellan seemed more reluctant than the general manager. This is just how I have observed it though.

        By the way, I need my paycheck; I’m a starving college student. lol

Comments are closed.