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You can call me Mr. Plattner
Owner for a day
5/1/14 - By Mike Lee -

It wouldn't be the official end of the Sharks season, without some prognostication on what the Sharks need to do to address their playoff failures. Rather than tell you what went wrong, I'm going to play virtual owner, and tell you what Sharks owner Hasso Plattner should do to address another miserable end to a Sharks season.

First, notice that I'm playing the role of owner, and not General Manager. The foreshadowing here has to be killing you with suspense. I'm putting myself in Plattner's Birkenstocks because the first move I make if I'm him is to relieve General Manager Doug Wilson of his duties.

Wilson is the man that runs the show, and has done so for the last 11 years. Since he was hired in 2003, Wilson's teams have won ten playoff series and have reached the Conference Finals twice. They've also lost ten series', three of those in the first round. Most teams would kill for the chance to qualify for the playoffs ten years in a row, but when you're expected to compete year in and year out, you'd think one of those teams would have at least reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

As I've said on numerous occasions in the past, Wilson has assembled a team in his own likeness. Wilson was a proven hockey talent that never got it done when it mattered most. He played for some pretty decent Chicago Blackhawk teams that had the ability to win. Sound familiar?

The issue with Wilson is that he's committed his franchise to a number of big money contracts on guys that have never performed in the playoffs, even though they've had multiple cracks at it. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have been given ample opportunity (not to mention a supporting cast) to win it all, but year after year they wither under the pressure of the playoffs.

As the owner, I can't get rid of Thornton or Marleau if I wanted to because of the contracts that Wilson signed those player to. Both received three year extensions during the season along with "no move" clauses. I could give them away I suppose, but even then, both players have the ability to reject any attempt to relocate them.

The same goes for Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic (the one piece worth keeping), Brad Stuart, and Martin Havlat. Burns wasn't the driving force he needed to be in the playoffs, Stuart's age was evident on the ice, and Havlat sat for 5 games, then reminded us all of how atrocious his contract is.

Wilson gets to take credit for the Havlat contract abomination that thankfully only has one more year remaining. San Jose will shell out $6 million next season on the Czech forward, then wait to see how long he lasts before landing on the injured reserve. To prove that I'm not all gloom and doom, the Sharks get a bonus in that they'll only incur $5 million in cap obligations as those numbers are averaged out over the life of the contract. Glass half full people.

My next action as owner is to get rid of Todd McLellan. The Sharks bench boss did little to incite any motivation in his team, and from appearances, it seems he's lost his locker room as well. McLellan made reference to the fact that he warned his players of an impending resurgence by the Kings after Game 3, but nobody seemed to listen.

If you can't motivate the troops to win one of four games against the team that bounced you from the playoffs the prior season, then you really have no shot at succeeding. Given the Sharks track record, failure is something San Jose needed to overcome at all costs. McLellan's even keeled approach to everything is perfectly suited for a team that consists of self-starters. That team doesn't exist in San Jose.

A team's that's beating a division leader one day and losing to a cellar dweller is all you need to know about that team's motivation. The Sharks consistently dropped games to teams that were destined for top 5 in the draft order after beating front running teams. The lack of inspirational consistency is a trademark of this club.

McLellan's tactical approach to games has become so predictable that it's no wonder that teams like Calgary, Buffalo and Carolina had their way with the Sharks this season. Dump and chase, cycle the puck, turn it over, repeat. If I could draw up a way to defend that approach.

The power play went from bad to worse as the season progressed, which falls entirely on McLellan's shoulders. The Kings had little to do but sit back and let Jonathan Quick knock down long range shots (assuming San Jose actually shot the puck). San Jose's miserable playoff run came to a halt with a thud after the special teams fail to convert on their final 15 power play chances of the series.

The one thing the Sharks did well was draw penalties. In fact nobody drew more in the first round of the playoffs collectively in the NHL. Not converting those chances is what cost the Sharks, but what did you expect from a team that ranked 20th in the league?

How did the Kings fare in that statistic? The league 27th ranked power play during the regular season scored 6 goals on 24 chances in the 7 games with San Jose. 25% of their chances found the back of the net (6th best in the playoffs). San Jose's conversion rate was exactly half that (12.5%).

If they gave points for the distance the puck travels on the man-advantage, the Sharks would have multiple Stanley Cup Championships. The purpose of the power play is to kill the opposition, not the clock.

And who do I replace McLellan with? Is Jurgen Klinsmann available?

When it comes to personnel decisions, there really isn't much room for me to navigate as the owner of the Sharks. I shouldn't have to worry about this to begin with, but given that I've just fired my General Manager, and I don't trust that anyone in the organization is capable of making worthwhile personnel decisions, I'm forced to decide on which players stay and which go.

The obvious departures start with Dan Boyle. Boyle will still command big dollars, but I have to react with my brain, not my heart. There's no doubt Boyle has lost a step, and I can't lean on the power play quarterback line of thinking (the power play speaks for itself), so I'm not shelling out millions of dollars for a guy that might do the job on some nights.

Scott Hannan is another defenseman that I need to make a decision on. Like Stuart, Hannan has seen his better days in the NHL, but $1 million, he's a relative bargain. He held the bulk of the defensive responsibility once Vlasic went down in Game 5. If I can sign him for the same salary, he's a keeper.

James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels are both restricted free agents, so I essentially have them by the balls. They will re-sign and like it. Sheppard finally started to show signs of life. Wingels needs to step into a bigger role next season, perhaps alongside Joe Pavelski.

Jason Demers is a coin toss. He's also a restricted free agent, and I don't have many options on the blueline. There's nary a player in the farm system ready to make the jump full time to the NHL, so Demers has me by the balls.

Mike Brown should be resigned around the $800k mark. Bracken Kearns is unrestricted and should be allowed to walk.

Where I'm really stuck between a rock and a hard place is in net. Antti Niemi is my starter, but Alex Stalock is an unrestricted free agent. Stalock proved that he's a bona fide NHL prospect that will be starting in the NHL someday. Not sure how easy it will be for me to move Niemi , who has one year left on his contract that will fetch $3.8 million next season. If I can trade Niemi this summer, I do so and hand the reigns over to Stalock.

I'm stuck with Adam Burish and nobody will touch Tyler Kennedy's $2.35 million contract, so he's not going anywhere. So from a roster perspective, I'm pretty much stuck with a majority of the underachievers next season.

I have to wait another season before I can free up money and roster space to actually start building. I'm stuck with Burns, Thornton and Marleau until 2017 with $19 million+ being consumed in cap space until then.

The beauty of purging Wilson and McLellan is that at least I won't need to pay them. Both will likely be snatched up, freeing me from any contract obligations, unless they choose to take a year off from work and milk my coffers while they sit on the coach for a year or two. That seems unlikely for McLellan. He wants to coach, so he'll jump at an opportunity (Vancouver would be a likely destination).

Other than a shake-up at the top, my options are limited. I keep hearing that I also own a minor league team in Massachusetts. I'm having problems grasping this since I've never heard of them. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that they're perpetually irrelevant. The only traces of them are these airline expense reports I keep having to sign. Why so many? Do I at least get to keep the frequent flyer miles?

OK, that's the story. Well, there is one more thing. Bratwurst. Why can't you find a good Bratwurst inside the arena? I love Bratwurst. People will be more inclined to buy beer if there are Bratwurst. I'm German, I know these things. I'm still trying to get over the fact that Americans will pay $10 for a beer! We drink that shit like water back home. You people are crazy. Crazy I tell you.


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