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Wilson plays final card
With staff firings, what does Doug Wilson have left?
12/12/19 - By Mike Lee -

Doug Wilson has played his final card. Mired in one of the worst starts in team history, the San Jose Sharks General Manger fired head coach Peter DeBoer and all but one assistant on Wednesday night. By doing so, Wilson has run out of cards to play himself. General Manager since 2003, Wilson's Sharks have made a single appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. Only David Poile of the Nashville Predators has served longer as the current GM for the same team.

The Sharks sit just 5 points out of the playoff spot and it's only December, but Wilson felt the need to do something. Attendance has steadily been declining the past three seasons, and the current brand of hockey is, well, bland. San Jose fans have grown accustomed to playoff appearances, but the taste for something more meaningful than a lone Finals appearance has alienated many die-hard fans.

There is clearly a new generation of paying customer in the Bay Area, and they are a fickle bunch. Just making the playoffs isn't enough to coax the casual fan to SAP Center these days, and the Sharks tepid start isn't helping ticket sales.

San Jose sits with the 12th best record in the Western Conference, even after recording an incredible 11-4-0 record in the month of November, but their horrific October and a recent 5-game losing streak cost DeBoer, assistants Steve Spott, Dave Barr and Johan Hedberg their jobs.

But by dropping the axe on his coaching staff, Wilson has no other arrows left in his quiver. Wilson bought himself some time with this latest move. He'll have the time to hire another head coach, who will then have a two-year window to try and turn something around. If that doesn't work, who else is their left to blame, but Wilson himself.

DeBoer and his band of merry men were the fall guys this time around. It was Wilson who out together the Sharks current roster, not DeBoer. The former NHL defenseman should at the very least be able to identify players who know how to play defense. This Sharks roster can't.

The two center pieces of the Sharks blueline are both offensive minded defensemen, who don't focus on stopping the opposition. Brent Burns' game is centered around driving pucks to the net. Erik Karlsson and his silky-smooth skating were supposed to help the Sharks move the puck so that opposing defenses could not stop them.

What the Sharks have today is a set of defensive corpsman that can't stop opposing teams themselves, to the Sharks are constantly playing catch up. The return of Radim Simek from injury was supposed to bolster the Sharks defensively, but he is just a shell of his former self, pre-dating the knee injury that he suffered last season.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic either aged considerably over the last two seasons, or he forgot how to play defense. Brendan Dillon doesn't have the skating skills to keep up with speedier opposing forwards. Wilson tried to supplement things with prospects like Mario Ferraro, Tim Heed and Dalton Prout. Put that all together, and the Sharks have been a disaster defensively.

Wilson's big gamble was to throw a boat load of money at Karlsson to help solidify the blueline, thinking the Sharks would just outscore their opponents. Problem there is that San Jose hasn't seen the offensive production out of guys that should be delivering.

Logan Couture has gone into a shell since being named team captain. Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl have started to emerge from their early season doldrums to a degree, but it hasn't been enough. Evander Kane is producing, but he's also extremely well compensated for what he does. He should be scoring, which he does as long as he keeps himself from getting suspended.

Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow, Marcus Sorensen and Melker Karlsson don't contribute much offensively.

Then there are the two sentimental gambles that Wilson took, which have netted little except for nice little marketing blurbs as Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton climb the games played list. The two have combined for 6 goals and 15 assists in 33 games. If Wilson just wanted some experience to teach his younger players how to be professional, does he need both over the hill players to do that?

You can't defend the goaltending, other than to say that Martin Jones and Aaron Dell get hung out to dry more than most of their peers, and neither has elevated their games enough to compensate for the absence of defensive protection.

In aggregate, there's plenty of underachieving on the Sharks roster. Is that a coaching issue? Perhaps. But there are only so many things any coach can really do to motivate his players. DeBoer likely lost the room, but he also doesn't have a guy like Joe Pavelski to serve as his intermediary. That was Wilson who decided not to bring the Sharks former captain back to San Jose.

Over the course of the last 16 years, there has been one constant in San Jose. That's Wilson. Check that, there has been two constants. Wilson, and the Sharks not winning a Stanley Cup. The latter should fall firmly on Wilson. The Sharks defensive mindset is built in his own likeness. Gentlemanly, professional, yet unsuccessful.

If the Sharks want to compete in today's NHL, they need someone who know how to put together a roster that has the right balance of skill, grit and determination. Wilson has had 16 chances, and they've all been busts. This move should be Wilson's last card.


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