Thanks to Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks are an unnecessary mess

Puck Daddy
Nov 12, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan watches game action during the first period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Nov 12, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan watches game action during the first period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

San Jose is in ‘the cycle’ at the moment – one of those awful spots where every win is “huge” and every loss is “devastating.”

It’s a horrible position to be in. One day you’re talking about the coach getting fired, the next day Todd McLellan and the season have all been saved. And as the Sharks end their six-game homestand Thursday against Boston – a stretch where they have gone 2-1-2 so far – one has to wonder, no matter the outcome, what it means for McLellan.

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The Sharks are a total captain-less (literally) and rudderless ship of zoo animals that is partially the making of one man and one man only – general manager Doug Wilson and his buzzy messages on the Sharks.

The San Jose Mercury News got in touch with Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, as speculation continues to swirl around this unnecessary drama.  

“’After 10 years on the sunny side, we now have to fight to reach the top eight in our conference," wrote Plattner, 70. "Our fans will be with us as long as the team gives its all.’”

“Wilson reports directly to Plattner in the organization's streamlined chain of command.” 

“Plattner's call for patience comes as speculation had been increasing that coach Todd McLellan's job was on the line if the team did not turn things around soon.”

The story also notes that Plattner, “voiced confidence in the ability of general manager Doug Wilson and his staff to "build a team we can all be proud of."

Whatever that all means McLellan must feel like he’s standing on one leg behind the bench and because of this lack of support.

He’s a good hockey man, and he will find a job somewhere else if he’s fired by the Sharks. But considering the situation in San Jose, it seems like it’s reaching a breaking point for him. 

(Note in our season preview one person [raises hand] picked McLellan to be fired first.) 

It feels like he has been thrown under the bus by his boss.

Do you think it was all his decision to strip Joe Thornton of his ‘C’ and go without a captain? C’mon, McLellan is an honest dude.

No way.

Moving Brent Burns back to defense? Why do that when he had such success at forward?

McLellan called it a “commitment for now” in training camp, while Wilson made it sound more steadfast during one of his “refresh” “reboot” or whatever Silicon Valley buzzword he used to describe Burns on defense.

And you know what? Burns is just better on forward for the Sharks. He has 19 points in 26 games this year on D, but his wily nature is better up front rather than reading and reacting to a play. Either way it’s just confusing for Burns and the team for that matter, especially when both the management and coaching parts diverge. 

Let the coaching staff make the decision on how to best employ a player, not the general manager.

Notes Pollak in another story:

“Coaches and general managers have different priorities on any team. But this is the most visible sign in seven seasons that Wilson and McLellan might not be on the same page.”

And then a day later, McLellan called Burns “a force” for the team. Ugh…

Does this all mean the Sharks are bad? Heck no! Thornton and Patrick Marleau continue to be ageless wonders, and are tough match ups – despite being in their mid-30s. Joe Pavelski is in his prime. Logan Couture is dynamic. 

Plus San Jose has young stars like Tomas Hertl and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. When it comes to ‘re-whatevering’ with talent, Wilson has indeed done his part. All the previously mentioned players – except Thornton – were drafted and developed by San Jose.  

So why does this feel like such a mess? Why does it seem like if San Jose was Toronto, it would look like a disaster? 

It’s because of the strange messaging and branding that comes from the general manager’s office on various issue. 

Says the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ross McKeon

Wilson convinced ownership the refresh-reset-rebuild he started during the spring of 2013 wouldn’t interrupt a streak of 10 consecutive playoff appearances and would push the Sharks closer to a Stanley Cup.

If the early offseason wasn’t the right time for change, then it’s not the right time now either.

There is not an available coach who is going to step in and turn things around. This is not the time of year a GM gets replaced. Change the GM, and you’d better be prepared to change the coach, too. It’s not fair to pair a new GM with a coach he didn’t hire.”

Also, let’s face it, when you’re not the one making the change, or the message, you’re generally the one who is being changed.

David Poile did a mediocre job in Nashville the last few years of Barry Trotz’s tenure. He lost Ryan Suter to unrestricted free agency and got slammed with a financially paralyzing offer sheet on Shea Weber.

And Trotz ended up being the fall guy. Poile made a bunch of chance moves in this offseason … all somehow worked out with a new coach, and bam, he’s back on top. 

So on Thursday against Boston, will McLellan be coaching for his job … again? Who knows at this point. But as of right now San Jose should be a solid contender, not what it has become.

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