Doug Wilson Believes in Todd McLellan: What Is Next for the San Jose Sharks?

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Doug Wilson Believes in Todd McLellan: What Is Next for the San Jose Sharks?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Todd McLellan is neither the reason nor blameless in the failures of the 2011-12 San Jose Sharks

With general manager Doug Wilson likely to remain in his post into next season, it is his opinion that matters most moving forward.

That is why coach Todd McLellan has to be happy to hear that the GM believes in him. Wilson wants to go through the process step by step before committing, and has said player interviews come first.

He told the San Jose Mercury News  that "(t)here will be changes...to what level, time will tell."

One is likely to be Jay Woodcroft, fired or reassigned for his oversight of the team's failed penalty kill. But presuming the rest of the staff stays intact, management has to start evaluating assets and determining what is most likely to create the most and quickest success for the team.

Many of those changes will be players. McLellan and his predecessor Ron Wilson have dealt with eight players in common: Patrick Marleau (the only player left that Doug Wilson inherited), Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Torrey Mitchell, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Douglas Murray and Thomas Greiss.

Seven of these players have been considered key components of the team over McLellan's entire tenure. The team's failure means few of them should be considered safe. Others who have not been part of the team's core over time also have to be considered expendable to some degree.

Should the Sharks follow the Philadelphia Flyers model? They dumped two top forwards from a team that was one year removed from the Stanley Cup Finals. If they can change their core that drastically and remain one of the league's top-four teams, it may provide a blueprint for Wilson.

However, New Jersey (a lower seed with as many wins in the second round this year as they had in the previous eight) has them on the ropes. Few teams with that much upheaval are successful, but previous cosmetic changes have failed.

The last significant change happened as early as the 2008 trade deadline, when the Sharks got enough talent on their blue line to be a puck-moving team. They bolstered that further and hired a coach to better take advantage of that talent the following summer.

The moves seemed to work. The Sharks won the President's Trophy and, after a disappointing first-round loss, rebounded to make two consecutive conference finals.

Last summer, it could be said they made another significant change in moving forward talent for Brent Burns. This one appeared to force the Sharks back a step, another indication upheaval does not bring quick results.

But unless one believes the model is so flawed as to warrant tearing it down and starting over, the past should only shape direction according to the lessons it teaches. The team must still decide next steps by assessing their assets and liabilities, being willing to accept the ugly truth they need to fix moving forward.

Hence, my evaluation of total team talent follows the same format it will for individual players, inspired by one of local renaissance man (actor, director, producer, musician, mayor and restaurateur) Clint Eastwood's best works, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

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