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Sharks coach Wilson to return despite never reaching Cup finals

5/29/2007 - NHL San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Ron Wilson will return to coach the San Jose Sharks next season, general manager Doug Wilson said Tuesday after another week of self-evaluation and soul-searching for the playoff underachievers.

Ron Wilson and assistants Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler will get another chance to coax postseason success out of the Sharks despite a second-round playoff loss to the Detroit Red Wings last month. The postseason exit -- culminating with three straight losses -- infuriated Doug Wilson, apparently prompting the GM to consider major changes to his winning club.

"This coaching staff will be back, and I'll look forward to the work we're going to do," Doug Wilson said.

Ron Wilson has won 138 regular-season games and four playoff series over the last three seasons with San Jose but hasn't led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup finals despite a loaded roster led by Joe Thornton, last year's MVP and the NHL's second-leading scorer this season.

Doug Wilson signed his coaching staff to an undisclosed contract extension last season during a 10-game losing streak. The Sharks acquired Thornton shortly afterward and embarked on an outstanding three-month run that ended in the second round of the playoffs.

The Sharks then set franchise records with 51 victories and 107 points this season but lost another second-round series despite Doug Wilson's late-season additions of forward Bill Guerin and defenseman Craig Rivet.

Doug Wilson said he needed two weeks just to cool down and gain perspective on the season after it ended. He then had a lengthy period of evaluation for every Sharks employee -- including Ron Wilson, who went through a series of tough meetings with Doug Wilson over the last two weeks.

"Ron and the staff, they're our coaches, and they will be our coaches going forward," Doug Wilson said. "There's some things that the players want to work on and the coaches want to help address. We're looking forward to the challenge ahead of us. In some ways, it's similar to the challenge Ottawa faced last year, and hopefully we can respond to it in the same way they did."

But Doug Wilson wants to see more discipline and a businesslike attitude from the Sharks, particularly on the practice rink, saying the Sharks were "not being accountable enough" late in the season.

Ron Wilson publicly challenged captain Patrick Marleau's leadership and sub-par play during the Sharks' loss to Detroit, but his biting words didn't help. Marleau is a favorite of Doug Wilson, and the GM still believes the coach and his captain can work together.

"When you're winning, everything is great," Doug Wilson said. "When you're not or you're not playing, I don't expect everybody to be happy. We challenge each other, and we've got to be honest. If there's no communication, that's the biggest issue."

The Sharks have drawn several comparisons to the Senators for their regular-season prowess and playoff struggles over the last several seasons. Doug Wilson even compared Marleau to Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who received years of criticism before leading Ottawa to the Stanley Cup finals this month.

"I believe in Patty, but we still have to challenge every player to be better," Doug Wilson said. "We're not just going to sit idly by [in the offseason] and say, 'See you in September.'"

Doug Wilson's busy offseason could include several trades, including
the all-but-certain departure of one member of the Sharks' goaltending tandem. Wilson intends to trade either Evgeni Nabokov or Vesa Toskala, who have uneasily alternated the Sharks' No. 1 job over the past two seasons.