2011-12 San Jose Sharks: Team Indicates Doug Wilson Will Remain as GM

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2011-12 San Jose Sharks: Team Indicates Doug Wilson Will Remain as GM
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The best player Doug Wilson has drafted and retained is Logan Couture

The San Jose Sharks released a statement about the disappointing 2011-12 season:

The on-ice results of our team this season are not acceptable to our fans, our organization or our ownership group. We will not lower our expectation that every San Jose Sharks team we put on the ice is capable of winning the Stanley Cup. Despite the fact that our team has experienced a tremendous amount of success over the past eight seasons, we are not satisfied with those results and neither is (general manager) Doug (Wilson). The ownership group has confidence that Doug will make the necessary changes to ensure our club remains among the NHL’s elite franchises.

This makes it clear there will be no change in who makes the hockey decisions.

Is this a mistake? An examination of the problems the San Jose Sharks face, it would seem that general manager Doug Wilson has the team heading in the wrong direction.

With two quick conference finals dismissals, Wilson saw a team that was routinely among the best-scoring teams in the regular season unable to duplicate that success in the playoffs. He reasoned that a defensive game was more reliable and actively retooled the team into one built around the blue line.

When the team was struggling in February, Wilson traded a second-round pick (their only one left in the first three rounds) for Dominic Moore. He later traded away Jamie McGinn and two prospects for Daniel Winnik, T.J. Galiardi and a seventh-round pick.

An examination of the moves clearly shows they failed the Sharks.

Moore had just six assists and was minus-eight in 23 regular season games. He was scratched for two of the playoff games, with no points and a minus-one rating in the other three.

How would you grade Doug Wilson's trades?

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Galiardi had the same statistics in the playoffs, while playing 14 regular season games with a minus-two rating and just one goal. Winnik was adequate: three goals, two assists and an even rating in 21 regular season games, and an assist and plus-one rating in five playoff games.

That gives all three players from both trades a combined 13 points between them in the playoffs and regular season as Sharks. McGinn had that many by himself (eight goals, five assists and a minus-four rating) in just 18 games since the trade.

Considering the prospects each have more value than a seventh-round pick, that makes the late season trades a collective disaster. It could be compounded or diminished by re-signing some of the players, as it could have been had the team re-signed McGinn, but these moves look bad in the long- and short-term.

 

It gets a little more tricky evaluating the offseason trades because players played different positions and had different resources. Even James Sheppard, acquired for a third-round pick and never suiting up this season, could turn out to be worth it.

The best way to look at them is by results.

During the regular season, the Sharks only gave up three fewer goals than they had in 2010-11 while scoring 20 fewer. They finished seventh in the Western Conference with their worst point total in Wilson's eight-year tenure as GM.

How would you grade Doug Wilson's drafts?

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But none of that would have mattered if the results translated better in the playoffs. This team has had plenty of regular season success; only the playoffs matter.

 

Unfortunately, the Sharks were dismissed more quickly than at any point in franchise history.

This team is in danger of needing a major overhaul. They are the 10th-oldest team in the NHL and have few real prospects for top-five forwards or top-four D-men in their system. They are loaded with fourth-line forwards and backup goalies, but they do not bring high value.

Worse, they have 11 players with NHL experience headed for unrestricted free agency and 11 more such restricted free agents. Thanks to the bad trades of the past 10 months, they have no picks in the first three rounds of this year's draft to fill holes in the future.

There can be no reasonable dispute that Wilson's reputation has taken a hit for those mistakes, but they do not erase his success before that.

He is well-known for talent retention, getting team-friendly contracts before players hit the open market. Blackmail or hypnosis does not explain getting the team's only All-Star, Logan Couture, to sign an extension for under $3 million per season.

 

The Sharks have always developed goalies well. Three from Wilson's payroll are current or former starters elsewhere in the league. However, there are not many skaters one could say developed in the Sharks system: 14 of the 28 players used most this season were acquired via trade or free agency.

How would you grade Doug Wilson in retaining talent?

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But it is in the acquisition of talent in which Wilson succeeds. His track record on trades before this season is solid.

 

Even though the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup after trading Joe Thornton to San Jose, none of the players from the trade were involved. Thornton has been involved in as many playoff series wins in either of his best two years as all of the players in the trade had their entire time in Boston.

Trades for Bill Guerin, Brian Campbell and Craig Rivet failed and helped strip the Sharks' cupboards. But they were designed to produce quick results and were gambles worth taking: Guerin and Campbell were instrumental in titles after leaving San Jose.

Since they did not work out, they count against Wilson by giving him fewer prospects. But one of the prospects he traded (Michael Sgarbossa) was undrafted, and Wilson has a good enough track record of finding talent to allow for a couple mistakes.

The bottom line is that Wilson took a team with one division title and four playoff series wins in 12 seasons and gave them five division titles and 13 playoff series wins in eight. Only Detroit has a better regular season record or more series wins than San Jose over that period.

However, with eight other GMs winning the Stanley Cup and five more winning their conference while the Sharks age, he has used up his time. He has to either scrap this team and rebuild to a brighter future or find a way to get it to rebound.

And he has to do it fast. Each upcoming player evaluation will show whether they should be part of things moving forward —and what Wilson will have to replace them with if they are not part of the team's future.

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