SAN JOSE, Calif. – The owners of the San Jose Sharks gave general manager Doug Wilson a vote of confidence to make changes after a disappointing early playoff exit.
Coach Todd McLellan will have to wait to get a similar show of support from Wilson to determine whether he will be back for a fifth season at the helm.
The ownership group of Sharks Sports&Entertainment issued a statement Wednesday calling a seventh-place finish in the Western Conference and a first-round playoff loss to St. Louis unacceptable while also backing Wilson’s leadership.
“We will not lower our expectation that every San Jose Sharks team we put on the ice is capable of winning the Stanley Cup,” the statement said. “Despite the fact that our team has experienced a tremendous amount of success over the past eight seasons, we are not satisfied with those results and neither is Doug. The ownership group has confidence that Doug will make the necessary changes to ensure our club remains among the NHL’s elite franchises.”
What those changes will be remains to be seen.
Wilson and the coaching staff have been meeting with players separately since the season ended April 21. Once those meetings are finished, Wilson will meet with McLellan and a decision on the coaching staff might not come for a few more weeks.
“I have not gotten through the process yet of full review,” Wilson said. “Just as we do every year, there’s no decisions made prior to giving people the opportunity to go through the whole review process. I’ll need some more time on that.”
Wilson said the meetings with players have been long and emotional sessions, with some running five times longer than scheduled. He said some of what he has learned so far confirmed his previous beliefs while some spurred him to look at the problems differently.
He said it was important to hear from everyone before making any decisions.
“It’s not going to be a rush,” he said. “It’s more important to go through the process, get all the information, get all the input and let people speak. Sometimes it takes a little longer once you get into it.”
The Sharks have been the second-best regular-season team in the league over the past eight seasons but have not made it to the Stanley Cup final.
San Jose has lost three times in the Western Conference finals, including the previous two seasons. But the Sharks took a step back during an inconsistent campaign this season.
A dreadful stretch starting in February almost cost them a playoff berth before they recovered late in the season to get the seventh seed in the closing days. San Jose then won its series opener against St. Louis before losing four straight games with the season-long problem of penalty killing playing a major role.
The Sharks are somewhat limited in what changes they can make on the roster because of the salary cap, an expiring collective bargaining agreement that is expected to slow player movement and an aging roster that includes a handful of players who have limitations on where they can be traded.
There is still a talented core led by captain Joe Thornton, franchise scoring leader Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Dan Boyle. But Wilson said there will be changes with the degree of them still to be determined.
“We have a team that was capable of being very good that did not achieve and underperformed,” Wilson said. “You almost have to take a break, take a step back, get the information and make the proper decision to get this team back to where it needs to be. We’ve gone through this before. We’ve had some bounce back. It comes down to having people who are all-in, focused, highly motivated.”