Sharks GM Wilson not ready to commit to bringing coach back
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- General manager Doug Wilson needed two weeks to calm down after the San Jose Sharks' second-round exit from the playoffs, and he's still not ready to make any quick decisions on the futures of his players and coaches.
Saying he's "frustrated and disappointed" with the end of an otherwise successful season, Doug Wilson plans to decide by next week whether coach Ron Wilson will return to San Jose next season.
The general manager was at times both blunt and evasive Monday in a wide-ranging interview, his first since San Jose was eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in six games two weeks ago.
"I have not had a feeling like this since I've been here," said Doug Wilson, the former Chicago defenseman who has molded San Jose's remarkable talent pool into a perennial winner over the past three seasons.
"We're not going to sit idly by. That's not what good teams have historically done. ... There will be changes. I'm not going to say, 'OK, everybody will take this experience and be better by September.' We will not do that. We're trying to win Stanley Cups, and we're trying to build a great organization."
Though the Sharks earned 51 victories and 107 points during the best regular season in franchise history, they left the playoffs with a precipitous slide after a promising first-round win over Nashville. San Jose lost its final three games against Detroit, and Doug Wilson still hasn't decided how to deal with the exposed problems in the Sharks' leadership and strategy.
Firing the coach is an unlikely solution, but it's apparently still on the table: Doug Wilson pointedly refused to guarantee Ron Wilson will return to the club he has led to 138 regular-season victories and four playoff series wins -- but no Stanley Cup finals appearances -- over the past three seasons.
The Wilsons, who aren't related, went through a 12-hour meeting last week evaluating every problem with the Sharks. Ron Wilson asked for a few more days to find answers to Doug Wilson's questions, and the two will meet again later in the week, with a decision expected to be announced next week.
"We'll deal with the end of the process this week, and we'll go from there Monday," said Doug Wilson, who extended Ron Wilson's contract last season during a 10-game winless streak.
Though he has built a sturdy, young team with no obvious weaknesses, Doug Wilson said he is determined to re-examine the Sharks' structure. Any player seems available in a trade discussion -- except Joe Thornton, last season's MVP, who's already had informal discussions about a long-term contract.
"You can't just go get better players. You've got to make your own players better," said Doug Wilson, who has made brilliant deals for Thornton and defenseman Craig Rivet along with less-successful swaps for Bill Guerin and Mark Bell in recent months.
The Sharks' postseason collapse included Ron Wilson's thinly veiled scolding for captain Patrick Marleau, who struggled throughout the Detroit series despite a reputation for strong postseason play. Marleau's leadership skills are questioned repeatedly by fans who don't see how the taciturn son of a Saskatchewan farmer can be an effective captain.
"I trust that dressing room," Doug Wilson said. "I don't micromanage. There will be conversations that will take place. We'll handle it."
He also said it's "highly unlikely" that goalies Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala both will return for next season. Both are proven NHL netminders who shared an uneasy platoon until Toskala got hurt this spring, and Wilson fully intends to trade one of the goalies before training camp -- though he failed to find a similar trade last summer.
"I don't think there's many goalies that would have done what they did for us, but that will not continue," Wilson said.
Doug Wilson understands fans' concerns that the Sharks are turning into the West Coast version of the Ottawa Senators, who struggled through years of regular-season successes and playoff failures before finally breaking through to the Stanley Cup finals this year. The Sharks blew leads in three of their losses to Detroit, including a pair of two-goal margins.
"I want excuses removed from this organization forever," Doug Wilson said. "If anything, we're going to raise the expectations. People say we underachieved. Well, you know what? We did, and the only way we're going to overachieve is to win a Stanley Cup."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press