'Sleepless' Sharks consider shakeup
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After two sleepless nights, Ryane Clowe is thinking about how to fill several weeks of free time he neither wants nor needs.
It's a problem facing most of the San Jose Sharks, whose embarrassing first-round exit from the playoffs has cleared their schedules -- and sent general manager Doug Wilson into a fury that might last all summer.
Every one of us should be uncomfortable. There comes a time when this group needs to grow up and deal with what's in front of them.” -- Sharks general manager Doug Wilson
"We figured we'd make a run into June and then see what happens," said Clowe, who scored one goal in six playoff games. "And then all of a sudden, you've got a month here when you don't know what to do."
Wilson has plenty to do, but he's trying to wait until he calms down before he decides where to start. The Sharks' six-game loss to eighth-seeded Anaheim flattened every good feeling from San Jose's franchise-record 117-point regular season, which included 53 wins and the first Presidents' Trophy in team history.
"The frustration is overwhelming," Wilson said. "We owe an apology to our fans and our ownership. ... Everything will be evaluated. There's nothing that's off the table. This is going to be a tough, painful summer, and it should be."
Wilson realizes he must consider demolishing a team he thought was built to win the Stanley Cup. Instead, it fell apart in the early rounds, just as it's done in four straight seasons -- and the problems appear to be too big to solve with minor tweaks or the additions of several championship-winning veterans.
"I would have bet everything I had that this wouldn't happen to us," said Jeremy Roenick, who will wait a few weeks before deciding whether to end his 20-season NHL career.
Wilson thought hiring Detroit assistant Todd McLellan as his new head coach and adding veterans Dan Boyle, Rob Blake, Brad Lukowich and Claude Lemieux would change the Sharks' postseason attitude. Instead, San Jose lost its first two playoff games at home, turned in a miserable effort in the pivotal Game 4, and got emphatically closed out by the veteran, postseason-tested Ducks on Monday night.
In his upstairs office Wednesday at the Sharks' training complex, Wilson could barely contain his anger while his players cleared out their lockers. He made few specific predictions about the Sharks' future, saying he needed time to evaluate what went wrong -- "to conduct the autopsy," he said grimly -- before deciding who will be traded, released or simply browbeaten into improvement.
"Every one of us should be uncomfortable," Wilson said. "There comes a time when this group needs to grow up and deal with what's in front of them."
He did make one immediate decision, saying McLellan's job is completely safe after his promising rookie campaign imploded in six games.
Wilson realizes most external analysis of the Sharks' failures will be focused on Joe Thornton, captain Patrick Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabokov. San Jose's three most important players all failed to raise their games significantly in the postseason, although Marleau revealed he has been playing with a sprained ligament in his left knee.
"The team hasn't succeeded with them driving the bus," McLellan said. "That doesn't mean they can't do it, but I think the questions grow every year that you don't succeed."
Thornton, the happy-go-lucky former MVP who's never been an outstanding playoff performer, appeared to take this latest defeat more personally than usual. He even challenged Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf to a fight at the opening faceoff of Game 6, but that energy boost didn't lead to points or wins.
"If you don't win, it comes down on probably the best player, and I think it's fair," said Thornton, still sporting his playoff beard. "This team had high expectations, and we didn't fulfill them. We should have been playing Game 7, and instead we're talking about leaving."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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