Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Friday made some of his most pointed comments to date regarding what he views as his team’s fatal flaw.
Appearing on the NHL Network’s NHL Live! program, Wilson was asked by host Steve Mears what needs to change regarding the team’s culture after the latest playoff failure.
“There’s a comment that was made by a group of my players, that we were co-workers and not teammates,” Wilson said.
“Really, what that means is they really hadn’t dug down to be there for each other and commit to what teammates have to do to be successful. Look at L.A. The things that they did, the game sevens where they just stuck with it, coming back against us, taking care of each other. Ours was somehow lost a little bit. Our players acknowledged it, I’ve listened to them, our coaches have acknowledged it.
"That’s what I’m talking about when it comes to culture, is being a great teammate and playing the way that we need them to play, not the way that they want to play.”
How can that be fixed?
“It’s partly the people, it’s partly the environment, it’s partly how they’re managed and coached. It’s a combination of all those things. There’s teams in this league that are very talented teams. But, why do you finish it off [like] the San Antonio Spurs in basketball, and the L.A. Kings? They were a close team and did all those little things for each other.
"Sometimes the pilot light goes out, sometimes there’s injuries, sometimes people need to look in the mirror and wake up again. That’s usually what you’re looking at. But, it comes back to teammate-to-teammate, saying, ‘you know what? I’ll be there for you.’ And, we didn’t have it.”
The quotes were the latest of many from Wilson in recent weeks in which he’s suggested a lack of leadership in the Sharks’ dressing room was the main culprit in a first round defeat to the Los Angeles Kings, in which San Jose blew a 3-0 series lead. The Sharks have won just one playoff series in the last three seasons, and the plan now is to grow the team around a young core of talented players like Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Tomas Hertl.
It’s also why rumors have abounded regarding captain Joe Thornton and left wing Patrick Marleau, both of whom will turn 35 this summer. Wilson has said in no uncertain terms that he wants new players in leadership roles.
Wilson was asked if he was willing to explore a trade for Thornton this summer, provided the captain is willing to waive his no-trade clause.
“It’s crystal clear. We’ve decided we’re going to go into our form of rebuild, and it may take a year or two, whatever it may be. My conversations with Joe and Patty were kept in confidence, and it’s very simple – if it doesn’t fit for you guys, let’s sit and discuss it. Certainly, there’s a lot of teams that would love players like that. That’s a good situation we’re in, is people do want our players.
"But, as I said, that decision will be based on what’s best for this organization and what those individuals want to do. That will be kept in confidence. Teams call all the time, but I tell them it will be up to the players’ decisions based on conversations with me.”