How Does Doug Wilson Really Feel? Deadline Will Tell Us

To Rebuild Or Not To Rebuild

doug wilson nhl
Doug Wilson has been quiet this offseason (Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE)

“The rebuild is committed to.” “We’re a tomorrow team.” “One step back to go two steps forward.” “Status quo is not an option.” These are just a handful of comments made by San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson this past offseason.

This is the same GM who previously had always steered clear of using the term rebuild. So, are the Sharks actually “rebuilding” this season? Thus far, it hardly seems to be the case. While San Jose has gotten younger in some respects, they remain largely the same team. Not to mention they have gone for older veterans like John Scott and Mike Brown at the forward position instead of giving more opportunity to AHL players like Eriah Hayes and Freddie Hamilton. Therefore the question remains, does management think they are good enough to make a run at the Stanley Cup?

“I don’t think we’re close enough with where the other teams are at” commented Wilson during the offseason. This statement in and of itself left many folks confused seeing as the Sharks have been a top team year in and year out and were third in the NHL in possession last season. Does Wilson really feel this way or was he just posturing?

Contrary to popular belief, the Sharks aren’t particularly old. Outside of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, no other single key player is over 30-years-old. Plus most of their younger players have already established themselves as quality NHL players in Tomas Hertl, Matt Nieto, and Tommy Wingels. Age wise, the Sharks boast an ideal mix of players, and talent wise, they have as good a core group of top players as any team in the league. It is difficult to believe, a man as hockey savvy as Doug Wilson, has completely lost faith in a team that has taken the defending Stanley Cup Champions to seven games the last two seasons. Not clear what is gained from it, but saying his club isn’t close enough when they nearly beat the Stanley Cup champions, reeks of posturing.

Just Have Faith

Despite an uneven start to the season at 10-9-2, there is still plenty of reason to believe things will get turned around. While yours truly has suggested a coaching change could be the needed spark, the Sharks have faced an historically brutal schedule thus far. No team in history had ever played 15 of their first 20 on the road, yet the Sharks just finished up playing 16 of their first 21 away from home. A ridiculously heavy travel schedule is normal for a Western Conference club, but to be the only team ever is insane. Road trips for the Sharks are much more gruesome than for teams in the east. It is absolutely horrendous that the Sharks had to become the first team to go through that lopsided of an early schedule.

There is no doubt that the Sharks should have picked up a couple more points in the first 21 games. Losing to Buffalo twice, Columbus twice, and Florida are all head scratching losses. Given the advantage of winning the division and not having to play Anaheim or Los Angeles in the first round, one could look back at these lost points as something that made the playoff road much more daunting.

There are legitimate concerns with the way this team has been playing thus far but the fact of the matter is they still have too much talent for the amount of debbie downer comments from the hard core fans. Even without Brent Burns creating space on their top line, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are still outplaying their high quality opponents, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture are still putting up the points, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is as dominant as ever. The Sharks have scored nearly 70% of the goals when Vlasic is on the ice at even strength this season.

Furthermore, role playing forwards like Matt Nieto, James Sheppard, Tyler Kennedy, and Tommy Wingels have all made solid contributions thus far. With Raffi Torres injured and talented forward prospects like Chris Tierney and Nikolay Goldobin not playing in the NHL, the Sharks have the necessary depth at forward if they choose to use it. Playing players like Scott, Brown, and Adam Burish instead is puzzling to say the least, but the point remains they have the necessary forwards within the organization to get the job done come the postseason.

Defense, Defense, Defense

Burns Sharks
The San Jose Sharks were undoubtedly happy to see Brent Burns back in the lineup, and so should fantasy managers. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What they do not have, is the necessary blue-liners to get the job done. Thus far this season, Vlasic and Justin Braun have a combined plus-20 rating. The rest of the Sharks defenders combine for a minus-27 rating. Brent Burns moving back to defense has been a clear mistake, especially pairing him with a 19-year-old rookie, and the third pair grouping of Scott Hannan, Jason Demers, and Matt Irwin has been awful as well. And unlike the forward position, there isn’t much in the pipeline in terms of defense prospects.

Regardless of whether or not the Sharks do the wise thing and move Burns back to forward, this team will get bounced out of the first round in five games or less if they don’t acquire an established, defensive minded, top-4 defenseman. That would be the minimum need come the deadline. Trading for a second veteran defenseman to improve the third pair might also be necessary.

This season’s trade deadline is March 2nd. San Jose has plenty of cap room to utilize and what they do prior to the deadline will tell us how Wilson really feels. My gut tells me the offseason comments were some sort of posturing. We’ll find out if I’m right about that in early March. My firm belief is that the Sharks do end up acquiring a top-4 defenseman. Wilson won’t make the same mistake as last season by not having a competent contingency plan for a Vlasic injury. Now for reasons primarily concerning their bizarre forward usage, I don’t see the Sharks getting deep into the playoffs regardless of what they do come the trade deadline. However, if they bolster their blue-line, they will have all the necessary pieces to make that Stanley Cup push.

25 thoughts on “How Does Doug Wilson Really Feel? Deadline Will Tell Us”

  1. Andrew, good read but I had to stop and pause when you mentioned that Couture and Marleau are still putting up points. The fact that Marleau doesn’t have an even strength marker, in now 16 games is just not going to cut it, as noted by T Mac. Couture playing 3rd line in Buffalo was also kind of comical.

    I like your section on the D, but I don’t get why everyone is so quick to move Burns back to forward? He can control the game so much more on D, is still is contributing on offense, but yes he should not be playing with a fresh 19 year old. An infamous Doug Wilson move of a Colin White or Nik Wallin come to mind here as a great D partner hahahaha. Scott Hannan, Jason Demers, Matt Irwin…. I just don’t know… Demers 2-1 in Buffalo was horrendous and so too was the pinch by Irwin. Their development seems to be stunted this year.

    The fact the we went 0-5 versus those quality of opponents as you mentioned… Leads me no room to believe with this core, anything will get done. The fans will get the typical “they are in the NHL, they deserve to be here, they are a good team too” (so glad I will never have to heat a Thornton interview ever again). But the fact is the Buffalos and the Florida’s lose to the vast majority of NHL teams, and the sharks are consistently in the group that they beat. Hmmmm….

    Igor ^ as well provides a good laugh, I too would love to have M. Richards contract on the books for 4th line duties! Fact is he is a winner, and that provides his security, not a nice little NTC!

    • Goal scorers have ebbs and flows, Marleau still has 16 points in first 21, Couture 17, yes they need to start being more productive at even strength but those are solid totals to start during a brutal road stretch. When games are close, marleau and couture still account for 54% and 53% corsi percentage at even strength.

    • As for Burns, he hasn’t been controlling much of anything, his goals against per 60 minute of ice time is nearly 3X worse than Vlasic. The Sharks only score 42% of the goals scored when burns is on the ice at 5 on 5.

      • this context you are literally saying Vlasic has been on the ice for 70% of Sharks 5v5 goals.

        “Marc-Edouard Vlasic is as dominant as ever. The Sharks have scored nearly 70% of the goals when Vlasic is on the ice at even strength this season.”

        Btw that 70% comes from the 17 GF and 7 GA
        17/ (17+7) = .70 or 70%
        Definitely not explained, implied or detailed. Not sure how any reader would understand what that number even means without any information.

        Literally tried to help….

        • Notice I said 70% of THE goals not THEIR goals. Don’t see how you read what I said and gather that the percentage is of total sharks goals instead of all goals scored with Vlasic on the ice.

          Notice I didn’t say “70% of the sharks even strength goals are scored when Vlasic on the ice.”

    • The man who signed not only Adam Burish to a 4 year deal worth nearly 2 million per annually, he backed it up by trading for and resigning Mike Brown to 2 year deal 1.2 per, and signed John Scott. Three useless players. He has built a great core team, but his fringe roster moves have backfired big time.

  2. I watch the deals/trans. section of the news paper all the time waiting to see what moves the sharks are making, who is being traded, who is coming in and it is the same all the time. The sharks are standing pat with a team that can not be motivated by the coaching staff, and not to mention a coach who put the team in turmoil day one by saying no captain, meaning I have no faith in the team and they are playing that way. Get rid of the coach and get some one who knows how to motivate. And while your at it, get rid of Doug Wilson this team is his pick and it is not working. Try doing what every other team does, make some moves.

    • McLellan has made some inexcusably wrong decisions, not playing pavelski at third line center the whole playoffs, scratching kennedy the entire playoffs, and Wilson signing guys like Burish, Brown, and Scott who are useless fighters. Both men have done great things for the Sharks but imo are clearly losing their touch.

    • well, in some regards the Sharks shouldn’t have changed as they were a top possession team last year, but in other regards they should have gotten better, namely on the blue-line and on the bottom six.

  3. Also, absolutely not on the Wingels trade proposed in the comments section. I base this decision solely on the fact that Wingels is my fave Shark with an awesome name and I have yet to buy his jersey. Gritty and scrappy – no deal!

  4. As a Sharks fan, I don’t want to avoid Anaheim or LA. If we win, gahdamn it, I want to beat the best or wallow in alcohol. Not beating LA or Anaheim would lead detractors to say “Well they didn’t play the best” etc etc. In my eyes, adds an asterisk to our championship. Plus, no revenge = no satisfaction.

    All or nothing – we’ve had nothing for the entirety of our existence. Just one ALL year is all I ask.

    • Well LA fans would be a bit hypocritical to put down a sharks cup based on who they played. Their 11-12 cup, outside of St. Louis, Vancouver, Phoenix and New Jersey weren’t exactly the cream of the NHL crop. It’s all about matchups, yes winning the cup while running the gauntlet of the NHL would be fantastic, but being realistic, I just want a cup period, and matchups are a big part of many cup winning teams.

  5. The trade deadline won’t define anything. There is still the issue with Thornton’s NTC and his unwillingness to waive it.
    Kurz during a post game a few nights ago commented that something is wrong with the team. It is exactly what DW was trying to solve this summer. The team culture.
    The room is clearly still very dysfunctional. The players who spoke up in their standard exit interviews at the end of last season and said co worker not teammate all gave the same reason. Until DW is able to fix the problem/cancer in the room the team will continue to play the lousy hockey we are seeing now.

    You can continue writing the same articles from different angles but they are all of base and pointless.
    The problem with the team is not skill. There is more than enough skill.
    Until the problem is gone and the culture is solved the Sharks are not a team.

    • you’re calling me a broken record yet all you can do i talk about is getting rid of Thornton. You disregard the fact that possessing the puck is valuable even if you aren’t scoring because you are preventing the other team from doing the same. Thornton and Marleau have been together for years, and produce every season. Marleau chooses to tie his career to Thornton, if Jumbo was a cause of a locker room cancer, do you really think Marleau would do that?

  6. Well said. I would love to see Mike Richards in teal, but it’s unlikely Kings will give him up for anything we have to offer. With Richards centering the 4th line, Burns back to forward, and a top 4 defenseman by the trade line would be awesome.

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