San Jose Sharks: Doug Wilson's Worst Moves by Season
In the eight seasons Doug Wilson has been the team's general manager, the Sharks have reached every playoffs, won five division titles and been to three conference finals. The Detroit Red Wings are the only other team to accomplish that feat.
The Sharks are always on the short list of true contenders, but rarely sniff the next level. They have still never been to the Stanley Cup Finals, much less won it.
Wilson may need to consider changing directions to upgrade the team. But any analysis of him is problematic. You can't grade him especially high because he has never won anything, but he has to be among the best of the rest.
In fact, considering how close he has been, one could say he has been one or two moves away from a title. That would probably elevate him to being on par with Ken Holland as the best GM in the NHL.
Sometimes, that move might have been a trade made during the season. Other times, it was a draft pick that could have helped the team that year or down the road. Often, the bold move he made failed and slowly robbed the team of their prospect pool.
(In case you want another one, Doug, may I sell you and your counterpart on this doozy of a deal?)
The following is a list of each season's biggest mulligan for which, with the benefit of hindsight, Wilson might like a do-over.
2003-04: Miikka Kiprusoff Ends Former Team's Season
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In November 2003, the San Jose Sharks decided to get some return on their goaltending depth.
When Evgeni Nabokov returned to the team, Vesa Toskala had earned the job of backing him up. Despite obvious potential, Miikka Kiprusoff had struggled when given his opportunity.
With no room on the roster for him, San Jose shipped him to Calgary for a second-round draft pick. On paper, this looks like a win for the Sharks.
A second-round pick is a good return for a potential starter who was unable to make the NHL roster on your team. Despite some success, Kipper has not had a better career than the man the Sharks stuck with through the next five seasons. The pick was used to select Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
But Kipper's first good season made this a fatal trade. He carried the Flames to within a game of the Stanley Cup after advancing to the finals at the expense of his former team.
Since the Sharks have not gotten to within two wins of a conference title again, they appear to have lost their best opportunity in 2003. This is the only trade on the list in which the team going for the short-term gain was rewarded more than the team with the long-term vision.
2005-06: Mark Bell's Career Ends on DUI
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In the summer of 2005, San Jose Sharks fans awoke from the year-long NHL lockout to hear their team was adding the final piece. Tom Preissing and prospect Josh Hennessey went to Ottawa in a three-way trade that sent Mark Bell to San Jose from Chicago.
Hennessey's promising NHL career never materialized and Preissing was out of the league before Bell. So why is he on the list?
Bell was an utter failure for the Sharks. In that summer, he was driving intoxicated and fled the scene of an accident. The hit-and-run haunted him and he never recovered, going from being a first-line centre for Chicago to a fourth-line emergency option.
2006-07: Grit Trades Fail to Change Team Fortunes
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Doug Wilson had two first-round draft picks in 2007, and he knew his team lacked grit. As the trade deadline approached, he packaged each pick with a player to address that issue.
First, he sent what turned out to be the 23rd pick in the draft along with Josh Gorges for Craig Rivet. He played well and was a leader for a little more than a year before being traded in a salary cap move. However, Gorges has gone on to be among the league's best shot-blockers long after Rivet was relevant.
Later, he sent what turned out to be the 26th pick, checking-line winger Ville Nieminen and prospect Jay Barriball to St. Louis for Bill Guerin. This turned out to be a worse trade. Guerin was inconsistent in the run to the playoffs and not himself after taking a puck to the face.
Losing Nieminen was no problem and Barriball has not panned out for the Blues. But they used the pick on David Perron, who helped his team beat the Sharks in this year's playoffs, while Guerin fled for a lucrative offer in New York. To add insult to injury, the Islanders traded him to Pittsburgh, where he won a Cup.
These were trades that looked like good ideas, but did not pan out. But Wilson did not learn his lesson.
2007-08: Brian Campbell Takes the Money and Runs
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The very next season, the San Jose Sharks were languishing as the deadline approached. Doug Wilson decided to rent another pending free agent to put the team over the top, sending a first-round pick and Steve Bernier for Brian Campbell and a seventh-round pick.
A childhood friend staying at the home of Sharks star Joe Thornton, it may have been assumed that Campbell would re-up with the Sharks. Or it may be that they expected the kind of results they got from him down the stretch to carry into the playoffs, in which case the Stanley Cup could be hoisted by the rental player without resentment.
The Sharks stormed through March with a record month and finished the season with the second-best record in hockey. But they lost two more games than they had in any of the previous three playoffs.
By the time Campbell hoisted the Cup, he had already fled for a bigger contract in Chicago without even negotiating with the Sharks. Bernier is still playing but has been a marginal player. The first-round pick went for Tyler Ennis.
2008-09: Mortgage Future Drafts for Instant Gratification
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Doug Wilson spent a lot of the 2008 draft on the phone. It seems after trading away several picks for that one player he thinks will make the difference, he felt left out and decided to acquire more picks...by trading away future ones.
"Hello, I want your fourth-round pick. I will give you every fourth-round pick I get from now until I am fired in return."
All told, he acquired one third-round and two fourth-round picks in 2008.
This even beat his deadline trade late that year for the ineffective Travis Moen and Kent Huskins. He gave up prospects Nick Bonino and Timo Pielmeier, whose impact may not be fully felt yet.
The Sharks lost to their trading partner, the Anaheim Ducks, in the first round of the playoffs. However, this cannot be placed on the trade: San Jose did not give up NHL-ready players, Moen played well for the Sharks before departing and Huskins did not play until re-signing over the summer.
2009-10: Salary Dump of Christian Ehrhoff
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Over the summer of 2009, the San Jose Sharks had to dump salary to make room for the incoming Dany Heatley. So they sent the Vancouver Canucks their No. 3 and No. 6 players on the blue line, Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich.
They got Daniel Rahimi and Patrick White in return. Neither was projected to have much impact on the NHL, and they did not exceed those expectations.
Even in a salary dump, you have to get something of value for two starters. To add insult to injury, Ehrhoff was part of another team that eliminated the Sharks fewer than two years later.
2010-11: Niclas Wallin Does Little for Sharks
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In February 2011, Doug Wilson once again tried to add that one extra role player to put the San Jose Sharks over the top. Once again, it failed.
He sent a second-round pick to Carolina for Niclas Wallin and a fifth-round pick. Wallin struggled in a season-plus in San Jose, always seeming a step too slow in his own end and contributing just 16 points in 121 games, including the playoffs. Last offseason, the Sharks declined to re-sign him and he left to play in his native Sweden.
Neither pick has played long enough to project their impact on the NHL, but the Sharks have made it clear they are not re-signing Cody Ferriero's brother, Benn, so what are the chances the next one amounts to much?
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One could argue that every move Doug Wilson made over the last 12-plus months has been a bust. Moreover, each has been worse than the last.
1. He gave up Devin Setoguchi and top prospect Charlie Coyle for Brent Burns. While both teams fell in the standings, Minnesota has two younger players out of the trade to San Jose's one older one. Thus, it is logical to predict they will net more in the long run. Still, the outcome of this trade is uncertain at this time.
2. He traded Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. The oft-injured Havlat missed over half the regular season for San Jose and was inconsistent while he was in. He was terrible defensively, while Heatley was part of the first line Todd McLellan gave the shut-down role to by the end of his second (and last) season.
Had San Jose used the extra $2.5 million in cap space, it might have been worth it. But all they got out of this so far is a player two years younger, and that means little when that player is still overpaid and over 30. This trade could also still go either way.
3. He gave away a third-round pick for James Sheppard, who did not even play in 2011-12. The only thing Wilson got out of this was the chance to negotiate with him as a restricted free agent. When those rights are for a checking-line player, that compensation is about four rounds too early.
4. He traded the 37th pick in this year's draft for Dominic Moore, who had no goals and six assists in 26 games, including the playoffs. The Sharks struggled after the move (28 points in 28 games), had their quickest playoff exit ever, and it appears the team is not even going to re-sign him.
5. Wilson sent Jamie McGinn and two forward prospects to Colorado for a seventh-round pick, Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi, even though the team was already chock-full of borderline third-line players. In the process, they sent the youngest and most talented player packing. While they look like they will keep the least productive of the two players, it appears again they will not be re-signing Winnik.
However, it should be noted that the most important decision Wilson has had in 2012 is the move he has correctly not made. Logan Couture is already in Rick Nash's company, but is younger and less pricey. Trading him to Columbus would be a colossal mistake—I am not even sure he is worth trading Joe Pavelski for.