SHARKS COACH RON WILSON AFTER WCQF GAME 7 WIN AGAINST CALGARY
RON WILSON ON BENCH AGAINST EDMONTON, 2006 WCSF
Sharks EVP and General Manager Doug Wilson announced late this afternoon that Ron Wilson was fired after four and a half years behind the bench in San Jose. Ron Wilson was hired as the sixth San Jose Sharks head coach on December 4th 2002, recording a 206-134-45 record, .535 winning percentage, and two Pacific Division Championships (2004, 2008) in 385 regular season games. Wilson served as an assistant coach to Detroit's Mike Babcock at the 2008 NHL Allstar Game in Atlanta on January 27th. It was the first Allstar appearance in his 14-year NHL coaching career. During the second half of the 2007-08 regular season, the Sharks registered an 11-game winning streak, and a stretch of 20 games without a loss in regulation.
Wilson surpassed Darryl Sutter for first place in all-time franchise wins
on March 18th in Los Angeles, and he is third all-time
in games coached among active head coaches. Ron Wilson is 8th all-time on the NHL wins list (518), and 9th in overall games coached (1,091). The Sharks struggle to advance deep in the postseason, and the method with which they exited the playoffs, may have been a contributing factor in his release Monday.
Wilson led the expansion Anaheim Mighty Ducks to their first postseason appearance in 1996-97, and later led the Washington Capitals to consecutive Southeast Division titles (2000, 2001). In San Jose he earned a 28-24 coaching record in 52 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including an appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 2004 against Calgary.
The label of a strong regular season team that faded in the playoffs is a critical, but for the most part correct, moniker. Reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2004 against Calgary was a high water mark for the franchise, but 3 home losses (including the first two games at home) put the Sharks too far behind to battle back. The Flames manhandled San Jose at times. It was late season addition Jason Marshall who finally stood up to agitator Ville Nieminen, who along with Marcus Nilson were allowed to roam free with elbows and sticks up for most of the series.
In 2006 and 2007, playoff meltdowns were in danger of defining the franchise. Up 2-0 against Edmonton in the 2006 WCSF, a triple overtime loss led to the Sharks dropping 4 straight games, and another postseason exit without enough of a fight. The Sharks found themselves with a similar 2-1 series lead against Detroit in the 2007 WCSF, when Tomas Holmstrom returned from injury in game 4 and scored with 4.5 seconds left in the second period, the result of a critical faceoff loss. The Sharks could not close out a win, allowing Robert Lang to tie the game with 33.1 second left in the third. Mathieu Schnieder intercepted a weak Scott Hannan clearing attempt up the middle of the ice to slap home the game winning goal in overtime. The Sharks lost the next two games (losing the WCSF series 4-2), and it would not be an oversimplification to say mistakes made in game 4 led to a second straight playoff meltdown. After the season, a visibly upset Doug Wilson took nearly a week to speak with the media. He mentioned that he wanted enough time to evaluate every aspect of the team, and he wanted to put a plan in place to make sure each item of concern was addressed going forward.
In 2007-08, after a strong regular season (49-23-10) where the Sharks were the most dominant team of the second half, the Sharks appeared to be built for the long and grueling Stanley Cup Playoffs. Injuries are concern for every team after 82 games, but the Sharks iced the deepest blueline in the league to compliment veteran (Brown, Roenick, Shelley) and young forwards (Setoguchi, Plihal, Goc, Rissmiller) fighting for playoff starts. Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Milan Michalek picked up the scoring pace to take pressure off the lopsided offense tilting heavily toward Joe Thornton. Trade deadline acquisition Brian Campbell was predicted by many to spark the Sharks attack from the blueline, but all season long San Jose relied on a shutdown defense led by Christian Ehrhoff, Douglas Murray, and Craig Rivet. The Sharks won tight games in the regular season by closing out 1-goal leads, and suffocating opposing power plays with the top rated penalty kill
in the league.
That sounds like a solid postseason formula, but the San Jose Sharks played like a different team when the pressure reached playoff intensity. The Calgary Flames stretched the Sharks to seven games, but they were able to dictate physical play and San Jose did not make them pay for enough mistakes. The end result was a hard fought series win after 7 games, when advancing after 5 or 6 was a strong possibility if 100% team effort was given each night. The Sharks were dropped from the frying pan into the fire as they ran smack into a motivated Dallas Stars team with Brenden Morrow causing havoc on both sides of the ice.
Jarome Iginla was a dynamic impact player in the first round, but Brenden Morrow did more damage on each side of the ice, and he had a stronger supporting cast. The Stars hammered the Sharks defense almost into submission, earning three straight wins to open the series against the Pacific Division regular season champions. Morrow was able to set up in front of the crease, back into the crease, or win 1-on-1 battles in the corner, and the Sharks had no answer for him. Forwards who collapsed down low to help often left an opening on the point that would result in a scoring chance. San Jose showed heart and resilency battling back to win elimination games on the road in game 4, and a crucial OT win with 3 unanswered goals in game 5. The sixth and deciding game of the series was a 4 overtime classic, a goaltenders duel which saw Marty Turco (61 saves) and Evgeni Nabokov (53 saves) match each other ridiculous save for ridiculous save late into the Dallas morning hours. The Stars earned a 4-2 series win after Brenden Morrow silenced the drama with a point blank power play goal after 129:03 minutes of play, a goal Dallas Stars head coach Dave Tippett said could not be more perfectly scripted.
Looking at the tenure of head coach Ron Wilson, it is difficult to seperate this postseason from past postseasons. The fact that the Sharks earned a gritty 7-game series win against Calgary, and battled back with 3 hard fought games to push Dallas to the edge, neither addressed the fact that the San Jose Sharks made each series exponentially more difficult for themselves before factoring in the competitive qualities of their opponents. Head coach Ron Wilson and assistant coaches Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler have a reputation for extensive preperation, and Wilson will use every means at his disposal to psychologically motivate an individual, but the rubber meets the road at playoff success. San Jose is expected to make a Western Conference Final or a Stanley Cup Final every season, and the last 3 years they have fallen short.
In that regard, the Sharks will look for a different approach. A head coach that can best take advantage of the size, speed, and chemistry contained on one of the most talented lineups in the NHL. A head coach who can maintain the up-tempo, entertaining style of play, and one who can translate that style into an intense playoff environment.
That coach... Barry Melrose.
[Update] Wilson Relieved of Head Coaching Duties
San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the team has relieved Head Coach Ron Wilson of his coaching duties. The Sharks general manager also announced that team will begin a search for a new head coach immediately.
"Ron helped foster a new era in San Jose Sharks hockey with some record-setting regular season performances," said Doug Wilson. "However, ultimately we have decided that it is time for a different voice and a different approach to lead this team. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished as an organization but we feel that this team is capable of achieving greater success. I want to thank Ron for his level of commitment and desire to make our organization successful. Our entire organization wishes him well."
The Sharks also addressed
a report earlier today that another team contacted GM Doug Wilson about his availability. According to President and CEO Greg Jamison, Doug Wilson is under a long-term contract and is very happy with his current position. It was believed to be the Toronto Maple Leafs
who were inquiring about Wilson's services. Thanks to George James Malik at SnapShots
for the link.
[Update2] Sharks fire coach Ron Wilson after another ouster
As Ron Wilson's players cleaned out their lockers last week, the coach seemed to think he would have another year to coax postseason success out of the Sharks.
"You look at my record, it's second to none, literally, in the sport, so I'm not even worried about that," Wilson said. "I don't think there has to be too many things changed about our team. We're ready to roll next year, too. We've accomplished more since I've been here than any other team in the league except win the Stanley Cup. That's the next thing we check off on our list."
[Update3] Now it's time for the players to step up
- Mark Purdy for the San Jose Mercury News.
The franchise had to change the formula. Wilson was the most obvious move to make. But by choosing to move him aside instead of shaking up the roster, the pressure now falls squarely on the Sharks players to produce better playoff results. Their talent has never been in question. Their ability to sustain hard-core hockey for three straight playoff periods has been the issue.
Mercury News Sharks beat writer David Pollak
[Update] More from Eric McErlain at the AOL Fanhouse
. Last week, Globe and Mail staffer James Mirtle published an interesting post
on Ron Wilson, and the head coaching tenures of his father Larry Wilson and his uncle Johnny. Mirtle believed he was likely going to be let go, only to become the leading candidate for positions in Atlanta, Florida, and other destinations looking for a new coach.
After the game 6 four overtime loss to Dallas the Sharks were alternately described as too comfortable
and consistently inconsistent
. The worst was saved for Al Strachan
, who not only described Wilson's "terse and sarcastic" demeanor as wearing thin with players, but who also reported an instance of Ron Wilson calling out Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Matt Carle, and Milan Michalek by writing their names on a chalk board inbetween periods and allegedly saying "These are the guys that are letting us down". He reported that Wilson would probably be let go in favor of a head coach that was "less acerbic".
Strachan's reporting should be taken with a grain of salt, besides the fact that he was seldom seen at HP Pavilion this season, his rumors with regards to the San Jose Sharks often appear to be drawn out of a hat. The locker room incident this year follows last season where Wilson publically called out Patrick Marleau. The problem is, the players cited needed to perform much better for the Sharks to advance against Detroit and Dallas. The problem should hinge on whether you have to tear apart someone in a last ditch effort at motivation, or whether there is a system in place that drives players to perform under critical situations. That is the context with which Doug Wilson's decision to fire Ron Wilson should be viewed.
This blog only asked R-Wilson questions a couple of times this season, after the first training camp practice, and after the team meeting where he mentioned that he wanted to get the players attention with a difficult practice only to give most of the team the day off. He repeatedly expressed a belief that other teams had to adapt to the Sharks up-tempo style of play, that he was less concerned with how they would try to shut his team down. I asked him about the Douglas Murray vs Jarome Iginla matchup after two games in the first round of the playoffs, and instead he spoke more about the Sharks defense as a whole. Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker talked about Ron Wilson coaching his bench based on the performance of individual players, instead of trying to match lines with an opponent. It fit with his description of a Rubik's Cube approach of coaching.
Wilson also was on the forefront of integrating new technology
into his coaching, and it is a shame I could not get more of the vibrant local technology blogging community into the fold to get a look at his use of video scouting, tablet pc's, and database software among other tools.
[Update4] Another coach bites the dust
- Ross McKeon for Yahoo Sports.
And the Sharks didn't say it, but they probably also did Wilson a favor by not dragging out the decision-making process like they did last year. This way Wilson can pursue any and all openings before anything is filled. Wilson has competition, no doubt, and it might be a buyer's market for clubs in the hunt for a new bench boss. There is definitely quality from which to choose. Wilson is joined by Paul Maurice and Joel Quenneville as the recently let-go.
McKeon examines possible coaching destinations in Toronto, Ottawa, Atlanta, LA, Colorado, and Florida.
[Update5] Ron Wilson offered a reaction to the Canadian Press via the CBC
"In most ways, I was shocked when Doug told me... But in some ways, I guess, I was not surprised. When it happens when you don't expect it, you're disappointed. I can honestly say that I could not be prouder of my work here. I think our team's record speaks for itself. Obviously, we did not win a Stanley Cup while I was here [and] I'm disappointed in that as any coach would be."
"I cannot control guys falling down, I cannot control bounces in the playoffs. I would play that [Dallas] series again and go in with the same game plan. You out-chance and outshoot a team, and sometimes it is not meant to be."
[Update6] Chuq Von Rospach disagreed vehemently with my suggestion of Barry Melrose
, one that was thrown out there for effect until I knocked down several of my own questions about bringing him in. Chuq offers his own candidates
in long-time AHL bench boss Roy Sommer, ex-Colorado Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville, and former Sharks Tony Granato (Avs assistant coach) and Mike Sullivan (former Boston head coach).
Three keys for the decision: A coach who can get 20 players to run through walls in the postseason, a coach who can demand individual excellence as well as cohesion as a team, and hopefully a coach who can live in front of the media (as well as turn on a computer). Scratch Barry Melrose.
[Update7] This post was also published on thehockeynews.com
. Two other Sharkspage posts are available on THN here
[Update8] San Jose Sharks radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky posted a video interview
with general manager Doug Wilson on the release of Ron Wilson, the pride and disappointment after this season, what message this will send to the San Jose Sharks locker room, and what the Sharks will be looking for from a new head coach.