Wilson, Burke talk draft strategy

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Wilson, Burke talk draft strategy

PITTSBURGH Theyve hit their fair share home runs.

Recent draft picks like Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the early rounds, coupled with late finds like Justin Braun and Tommy Wingels has given the Sharks top-end, impact players as well as some rapidly developing youngsters.

There have been strikeouts, too. In 2003, the Sharks took Steve Bernier 16th overall, just ahead of players like Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Mike Richards and Ryan Kesler.

Recently, 2007 first round pick Nick Petrecki (28th overall) has spent the last three seasons in the minors, and a pair of NHL scouts recently told me he shouldnt even be considered an NHL prospect anymore.

Such is the nature of the NHL Entry Draft, which takes place over a two-day span beginning on Friday at Pittsburghs Consol Energy Center.

Theres always a degree of luck, but I think you create some of your luck, too, said Sharks scouting director, Tim Burke. I think its more our staff. Some scouts dont see everybody, but sometimes when they see a guy in their area theyre pushing hard for him, we have to go back out and look at him so they get some more support. Its more that, than anything else.

Doug Wilson said: Everybody works hard in this business, but what I like about the scouting staff is the healthy discussion. Burkie deserves the credit for that. Scouts have the opportunity to stand up and fight for their people.

With the pool of players so vast and so young, opinions can change almost overnight. Burke mentioned one player in this years draft, without using his name, as an example. Early on, the Sharks scouts were sky high about this particular player, but their evaluation of him quickly went the opposite direction.

RELATED: NHL Entry Draft need-to-knows

We got so excited on the guy early, it was like, how did you get to this point? Burke said. Youve got to look at the peaks and youve got to look at the valleys a little bit closer, or you get fooled. Theyre only 18 years old. There might have been something going on in his life.

The Sharks will stick with their philosophy of taking the best player available, as it's pretty unlikely the guy they take at 17 overall is ready to jump into the NHL right away. It typically takes three or four years of seasoning in junior hockey or the AHL before a draft pick is ready for The Show.

The kids are so young, by the time they are ready youve got a different need," Burke said. "It's different looking at it in hockey. In football, the kids are 22 years old. In hockey, not many guys play right away. Needs could change every year.

Since Wilson took over the Sharks just prior to the 2003 draft, the organization has had a generally strong run of success. In fact, Sharks selections have played more than 3800 combined games in the NHL (either for San Jose or another club), which is the most among Pacific Division teams and second only to the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference.

The club lists a staff of 11 scouts, several of whom scour North America and Europe looking for amateur talent. They file reports back to Burke, who oversees the operation and is the principle decision-maker when it comes to the draft.

We keep track of all the reports, where everybodys going and who theyre seeing and we cross check and have people go to tournaments, Burke said.

For the potential high round choices, Wilson is brought into the process.

Were looking at guys all year for different reasons to see if they keep improving or theyre going backwards. But certain guys that are important Wilson sees, and were all in it to make the decision. Some of the decisions, especially in the first round, you better be sure that everybodys on board about it.

That includes the interview, which takes place mainly at the scouting combine in early June and continues in the days leading up to the first round. Burke, 57, is in 15th season as head scout of the Sharks, and experience has served him well when it comes to that part of the process.

The interview, youve got to be careful sometimes, he said. The kid could come off as a real quiet, reserved kid, nervous around adults. Hasnt been in that environment before. And, he could fool you because hes a great interview but its all a bluff. You have to go back to who he is and what he does.

Wilson said: You have some players that are trained for the interview, or packaged for the combine. The work that really carries the most weight is what they see during the season. How players have played maybe in a tough situation.

The draft has become even more of an event recently than the NHL trade deadline, in terms of the opportunity to make drastic changes. So many teams are up against the salary cap in late February, or, with the recent penchant for parity, are still in the hunt. The past two NHL trade deadlines have been relatively quiet as a result.

If youre the GM of an NHL team looking to make a potentially extreme modification to your roster and there are several reports out there that the Sharks are trying to do just that theres no better time than now to do it.

Wilson, who admitted that hes in trade discussions, wont confess to any added pressure, though.

You want to start building your team in the offseason. It takes two sides to make a deal, obviously.

I think a lot of attention comes to today and the trade deadline, and a lot of attention on free agency beginning on July 1, but every day is an opportunity, and you plant seeds. Some deals and discussions take a long time to bring to fruition, but youre always looking at what your needs might be.

Youre trying to put your best team on the ice, and keep an eye on the future to refresh and replenish.

In return to San Jose, McLellan emerges victorious, ends Sharks' season

In return to San Jose, McLellan emerges victorious, ends Sharks' season

SAN JOSE – To borrow a phrase from Chuck Woolery, Todd McLellan was back in two and two.

Saturday’s Game 6 between the Sharks and Oilers marked exactly two years and two days since the Sharks-McLellan love connection was broken up, as the coach and his staff were all essentially fired on April 20, 2015. But McLellan and assistants Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft quickly resurfaced with the Oilers a few weeks later, and now they’re moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the expense of their former employer.

At what was his home for seven seasons, McLellan took the press conference podium at SAP Center as the victorious visiting coach after Edmonton’s 3-1 win clinched the series in six games. Asked what the moment meant to him, McLellan preferred not to focus on himself or his staff.

“It’s not about Todd, it’s not about Jay or Jimmy. It’s about the Oilers and the group of players there that are growing up in front of us,” McLellan said.

“We’re part of this team now. I obviously have a soft spot for a lot of the players that are here in San Jose. They gave us a hell of a series. They helped us grow up by pushing us, and we’re lucky to get through. That’s an important thing for us.”

Amazingly, the Oilers managed to prevail with just one even strength point from Connor McDavid, who led the league in scoring in the regular season. That point came with less than a second remaining on the clock on Sunday when McDavid converted on an empty net.

The focus from the outside, among many of the Edmonton and San Jose media, was that the Sharks were doing an admirable job of defending the 20-year-old, who had 30 goals and 100 points in the regular season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, in particular, were keeping McDavid frustrated.

While that may be the case, McLellan said after Game 6 that he had no problem with the McDavid vs. Vlasic showdown. In his view, the Oilers could win the series elsewhere.

“There was a lot of talk in this series about us trying to get Connor away from Vlasic and Braun. Obviously we don’t want to talk about it during the series, but we had an eye on [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] against [Joe Thornton’s] line, especially since they put them together. That was a match we were looking for.

“You can’t get everything. When you’re a coach, the media experts find something and they keep going to it. But coaches have different plans sometimes. Peter [DeBoer] had his plan, we had ours. Ours wasn’t about getting Connor away from Vlasic and Braun, ours was getting [Nugent-Hopkins] on the ice against [Joe] Pavelski and Jumbo and Patty Marleau. For the most part, it worked in our favor.”

It worked, because as the stars on both teams were essentially neutralized, the Oilers’ depth players contributed just a little bit more than the Sharks group did and at more opportune times.

Zack Kassian had a pair of game-winning goals in games two and three; David Desharnais was the Game 5 hero with a game-tying assist and game-winning goal; and Anton Slepyshev posted the game-winner with a breakaway in Game 6. Not exactly big names.

DeBoer was particularly disappointed with Game 3, a 1-0 loss on Kassian’s third period goal; and Game 5, in which the Sharks had a 3-1 lead that they couldn’t protect. That the Sharks only got one power play goal in 18 chances not counting the Game 4 blowout was also one of the reasons for their downfall.

“If you had told me before the series we would have held McDavid in check, we would have won the special teams battle on paper, I probably would have felt pretty good about our chances,” DeBoer said.

Instead, McLellan will take his up-and-coming team to the next round, where it will face off with the Anaheim Ducks.

“For our team, we’re watching them grow up right in front of us, which is a great thing,” he said.

 

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.