Monday, May 12, 2008

Sayonara Ronnie

So the search begins. The search for a new coaching staff, that is, after reports that should surprise no one surfaced earlier today regarding Ron Wilson's termination. Perhaps not all the blame should be placed on the shoulders of the long-tenured (by NHL standards, anyway) head coach of the Sharks for San Jose's third consecutive postseason of disappointment and underachievement. But something had to give, and a scapegoat quickly emerged in RW. His passive, containment-style defense, mistreatment of younger players and apathetic, who-gives-a-crap attitude harbored an indifferent locker room culture that was as much to blame for the Sharks' three straight early exits as Vesa Toskala's Game 4 giveaway against the Oilers, Marleau's late-game defensive gaffe versus the Red Wings or Brian Campbell's ill-timed tripping penalty against the Stars.

Of course, firing Wilson was easy compared to the aforementioned task that lies ahead: naming his replacement. Everyone from Bob Hartley to Mike Ricci has been floated around as a possible suitor, but observing the trend of the two post-lockout Stanley Cup champions, perhaps the Sharks would be better off with an AHL bench boss than an established big name like a Joel Quenneville or Paul Maurice. Regardless, Doug Wilson is on the record stating that the hunt for a new coach will commence tomorrow, although I surmise that it has already begun. Showing Wilson the door was merely the first step in what proves as a lengthy process of transforming a good regular season time into a true Cup contender.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Yes, they showed heart, resiliency, guts, gumption and all those other great nouns that seemed to be inexplicably removed from the Sharks' dictionary in years past by storming back from a 3-0 series deficit to at least make things interesting. But at the end of the day, this year's version of the San Jose Sharks, the purported "team of destiny" that so many confidently picked to raise Lord Stanley's chalice was an exact replica of the past two equally disappointing incarnations, bowing out once again in Game 6 of the second round. Sure the Sharks can take some positives with the way they battled back when staring death in the eye, but moral victories aren't what this team needs. Moral victories aren't going to save Ron Wilson's job. Moral victories don't win you the Stanley Cup.

I'll file report cards for the players and provide more analysis in the days to come, but the prime objective of the offseason should be to find a fitting replacement for Ron Wilson. His laughable containment-style defense and passive offensive system combined with his insufferable apathy makes him the polar opposite of what this team needs behind the bench. No, they don't need a motivator, no matter what so-called pundits -- particularly those north of the 49th -- say. Professional athletes don't need someone to motivate them, they need someone who can properly utilize their talents and be able to adapt to various opposing gameplans instead of stubbornly implementing a completely static power play entirely reliant on a crowded Joe Thornton making unbelievable passes that never come. Doug Wilson has a host of options as far as a replacement goes -- Pat Burns comes to mind -- but what's urgent is getting Ron Wilson out of the Bay Area.

Also, despite a rather underwhelming postseason performance, Brian Campbell needs to be retained. Say what you will about his lack of physicality and occasional defensive mishaps, Campbell is the power-play quarterback and offensive blueliner that has been missing for so long on the Sharks' back end. As painful as it is to say, his poor playoff campaign is actually a positive in terms of contract negotiations as it likely knocks over five hundred thousand off his asking price.

As far as trades go, I really don't believe the Sharks can get fair value if they try to trade Patrick Marleau, so there's no reason to do so. However, Matt Carle and Kyle McLaren both need to be dealt to free up valuable cap space to sign Campbell as well as key RFAs such as Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe and Christian Ehrhoff. I imagine they will be traded at the draft either for picks or marginal roster players in return, but as long as Doug Wilson is able to shed salary, the moves will be successful. It's going to be another long summer in Sharks territory, best to get started early.