Doug Wilson thinks Sharks passed character test, won’t touch Marleau talk

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Doug Wilson thinks Sharks passed character test, won’t touch Marleau talk
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In early November the San Jose Sharks appeared primed for a tumble in the standings.   

The team had won once in between Oct. 17 and Nov. 10. There were reports that longtime forward Patrick Marleau was trade bait. Center Logan Couture – who suffered a fractured right fibula in early October – remained shelved for several more weeks.

Was San Jose’s 3-0-0 start a mirage? Was reality finally hitting the group – that maybe last season’s playoff-less run was really the precursor of a slide into mediocrity? 

“They coaches were very focused. The players knew what they were capable of. It’s a very good group. A very tight dressing room and a very solid group with really good leadership. What people write or talk about isn’t necessarily the reality of what’s going on in that room,” general manager Doug Wilson said in a phone interview with Puck Daddy. “They played very well early in the year. They realized injuries are part of it and nobody used it as an excuse, which tells you the character of the group, and they dug down and grounded out.”

The Sharks (10-8-0) have since won three games in a row at the start of a six-game road trip. The Marleau trade rumors have died down a little with Wilson declining to comment and saying Marleau “is an important part of our team. He has played extremely well.”

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This trip could have dropped the team further in the standings. Instead, without Couture, the Sharks have won three straight one-goal games at Detroit, Buffalo and Boston.

And Wilson, who made several moves in the offseason to try to add a tougher element to the team, has liked how his group has responded.

“It has been an interesting first part of the year because you had success then you had the challenges of five-or-six people going out,” Wilson said, referring to Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Ben Smith amongst others. “You had young guys come up and get opportunities. You had some guys get more advanced roles. Tomas Hertl has certainly stepped up in an advanced role. With that comes opportunity and that only makes you a better team. If everything had gone perfectly smooth and we had everybody, you don’t always get to see a little bit deeper into the group. But it’s a good group that cares about each other. And I like the grind and the compete factor in the group.”

Mostly all the players Wilson added in the offseason have worked out to help keep the team above water in spite of the injury problems. 

Forward Joel Ward has 14 points in 18 games and is on pace to shatter career highs in all offensive categories. When healthy, Martin has been a steady presence averaging 21:34 of ice time per game.

Wilson’s riskiest acquisition, goaltender Martin Jones, has played well enough with a 2.25 goal-against average and .918 save percentage. The previous two seasons, Jones was a backup for the Los Angeles Kings. He’s played 15 games so far this season, which equals his career-high with Los Angeles a year ago.

“Even when he had a little blip, there was no blaming anybody, he takes full responsibility,” Wilson said. “I think his teammates have great respect for him.”

Coach Peter DeBoer has been the type detailed hand Wilson envisioned when DeBoer was hired last summer to replace Todd McLellan.

“He’s very focused,” Wilson said of DeBoer. “His actions match his words, what his expectations are. I know the players respect him and like his approach. He pushes them too. He holds them accountable and pushes them and I think there’s a really good feel in that dressing room.”

The Sharks are still probably one of the tougher reads in the NHL. Though DeBoer has been known as a puck possession type coach in the past, the team ranks 17th in the NHL in terms of 5-on-5 CF% according to War-On-Ice. The penalty kill, which was a major emphasis of DeBoer coming in, ranks 23rd in the NHL at 76.8 percent. 

Jones could hit some type of fatigue wall at some point, since he’s never played this much in the NHL.

Couture is coming back from a difficult injury, so it will take some time before he gets back into game shape.

There are lingering questions on Marleau and how his name became involved in trade rumors – whether he asked the team to explore a deal or if the Sharks took it upon themselves.

If Marleau stays with the Sharks the rest of the year, he and Joe Thornton are 36 and averaging below a point per-game pace so far. It’s unclear whether than can still carry the team.

But early on the Sharks have shown they can handle losing a top player and stay reasonably competitive, which is about the toughest test a team can have during a regular season.

“I’ve liked the way they’ve handled the adversity of some people being out,” Wilson said. “That often is when your team gets built and they come together as a group and this road trip probably came along at the right time.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!