SAN JOSE SHARKS EVP/GM DOUG WILSON - PHOTO JON SWENSON
San Jose Sharks EVP/GM Doug Wilson was interviewed on KNBR’s Fitz and Brooks show yesterday afternoon. Wilson covered the summer outlook for his team after a run to the Conference Finals last season, which players may fill a Dustin Byfuglien role for the Sharks, the departure of Evgeni Nabokov, the NHL trend towards goaltenders, the departure of Manny Malhotra and addition of Jamal Mayers, whether they will add a defenseman, and the voided Ilya Kovalchuk contract as well as many other topics.
A partial transcript of the interview:
One thing is the players felt as if they left it all on the ice, not sure if they felt that the prior year. It is a tough league. When you are competing against the top two or three teams in the league, you got to play your best. I think the players can look in the mirror and feel that way. Beating Detroit was a very good accomplishment. Not beating Chicago is something we should be a little sour about and used as motivation. The age of our group, and the experience they have gone through, guys are really excited about this upcoming season.
Competition is a great motivator. You have got young people that are coming through our system that have played either at Worcester last year or part of the year at Worcester, that are going to be important players for us this year. Guys are always looking over their shoulder. Obviously you always have the ability to add players from outside the organization, which we have done in the past. Whether it be a Thornton, a Boyle or a Heatley. We are positioned that way too, to always make our team better. We have lots of draft picks this upcoming year, we have a lot of players within our system that other teams like. We also feel like we have got a very good hockey team. Knock on wood, you stay healthy and play up to your capabilities. We are always looking to add people who can make us a better hockey team.
We got a couple guys (who can fill that Dustin Byfuglien role). We have Brandon Mashinter, who played well for us last year in Worcester. We were fortunate enough to sign a guy by the name of Cam MacIntyre, who signed with us from Princeton. Cam is 24 years of age, he is a big man. He is 24, not a kid. He is a very, very good hockey player that understands what he needs to do to play in this league. Having Dany Heatley back healthy. Unfortunately in the playoffs last year, he tore his groin so he was not able to do the things that we needed him to be able to do, particularly in the last series. When you talk about the Chicago series, the three guys that beat us from their team we feel were Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland and Antti Niemi. You have to give them credit. Our guys, they know they accompished a lot last year, they also know that it is something to build upon not something that is going to satisfy us.
We appreciate everything Nabokov did for this organization, how hard he played for us and how hard he worked. You take a look back over the last five years under this system we play, not only the salary cap system but also with the new rules, the goalies that have gone on and had success, the Niemi’s, the Leighton’s, the Halak’s, Hiller, Osgood, Roloson, the Cam Ward’s… It’s not the high profile, high salary goaltenders, it is a certain style of play, how team’s have to dedicate their dollars to certain positions. That is what we did. It was not an easy decision, but out of respect to Nabokov we made the decision early. We let him know so he could go get a contract in Russia that I think is a very good contract for him. The goaltender we acquired, Niittymaki, in 2006 was the MVP of the Olympics. He played in Philadelphia, he played in Tampa. He got healthy last year, played very, very well for Tampa. We love the style of play, we love his size, we think he fits very well for us in a tandem with Thomas Greiss, Alex Stalock, Hari Sateri, who is another goaltender we believe strongly in. We think we are in a good position goaltending-wise.
Every team has done the same type of research we have done. There is a trend in this league, it is not just the who, it is the what. It is the style of play, the size of the goalie, things like that. The supply of goaltenders this summer far outreached the demand, there were not that many nets available. I think it was fairly predictable (Nabokov going to KHL). Marty Turco who has been around the league for a long time, ended up getting a contract in Chicago for 1.3 million. The market has changed. Goaltenders, the view of what successful teams are dedicating dollar-wise, but also style of play has certainly changed.
(Wink if you didn’t mind either signing Hjalmarsson or putting Chicago in a more precarious salary cap position) I guess you will never know if I winked or not. The reality is we liked the defenseman, Rob Blake retired, we put in a very fair offer, which was four years at 3.5 million, which would have worked within our salary structure. They would have got a first round pick and a third round pick for compensation. That is how the system is supposed to work. Whatever the fallout is, whatever other issues they have to deal with, that is their problem, not ours. My responsibility is to build the best team we can in San Jose. I won’t apoligize for that.
You want this to be a place players want to play, and you want to treat them with respect. When Curtis Brown came here, we gave him a fair deal, a short term deal. He was offered a 4-year deal in Chicago and I told him the same thing (I told Manny Malhotra), for your family’s sake, you are not going to get that offer from me. I will drive you to the airport, you have got to take it. In Manny (Malhotra’s) case, he gave us a very fair deal a year ago for $700,000 dollars. In the role he was going to play with us, and with the growth of Logan Couture, that probably wasn’t going to be the same role. For him to get the offer he got in Vancouver and with a no-movement clause, he had to take it. I don’t mind that it works out that way because other players will do the same thing. They would like to come to San Jose, play with a very good team, and if they can springboard back up to a higher end contract, it doesn’t fit for us but it does for somebody else, that’s ok.
You want guys who play a lot of minutes, who bring certain elements to your game. A name that is really important to our team dynamic is Douglas Murray. A big, physical guy who played really well last year and compliments Dan Boyle. Marc-Edouard Vlasic broke through in the playoffs and showed what he is capable of. Jason Demers, the best compliment I can give him is that Dan Boyle said he sees the same thing in him I saw in myself. When Dan Boyle compliments a player like that, it tells you something. We have Kent Huskins and Nick Wallin, who are veteran guys. We have a group of younger guys Mike Moore, Derek Joslin, Nick Petrecki, Matt Irwin, (UMass-Lowell free agent signee) Nick Schaus. We have a group of guys that are going to come in and compete for that 6/7 spot that will make the team in the future. You want competition, you want a physical guy, you want stoppers, you want puck movers. What we do is we use a forward on the point on the power play in Joe Pavelski, much like Detroit did with Mikael Samuelsson and many other teams. You need to have certain ingredients, not only in your defensive play, your stopping play, your physicality, the speed because of the transition play. Speed in hockey is not only through skating, speed can come from the ability to pass tape-to-tape. We have got all those compliments. Are we looking to add another player on the back end? We are always looking to add. If there are guys out there that fit, we have room in our payroll, we have all our picks left. I would venture to say we will probably add a defenseman at some point between now and the trade deadline like we have in the past. In the first instance you want your young guys to come in and compete for those spots because they are ready for that opportunity.
I think that is up to the league office to operate under the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement. Certainly there is another CBA up in a couple of years. I’ll leave it with them. We operate the way we operate. I don’t think we have to worry about the ramifications of any of what happened down the road. We treat our players very fairly. We want them to be played well. I think there are certain instances within this, I think I saw a GM use the word exploit the salary cap. Any time exploit is used as a verb, that brings into question what they’ve done. We work the system, we are always pushing the envelope, and we are as creative as we can be. I think there are times where if you get chalk on your toes, you crossed the line. I think it is up to the league to address that. That is what they have done in the last little while. I am sure they will address it going forward. There are always those Gordie Howe’s those Chris Chelios’, but that is more the abberation than the rule. I think you have to take a look at what the spirit of an agreement is, or the spirt of a collective bargaining agreement in particular, and make sure that is policed appropriately.
Too often in the world of sports you have people that are look at me people, and try to bring attention to themselves. (Patrick Marleau) is a true professional who won a gold medal last year representing his country, scored 44 goals in this league, has always carried himself in a classy way. He is one of the fastest players in the league. He is 6-2, 6-3, 225 pounds. His teammates respect him immensely. When you get chose for probably the hardest team to make in the world, the Canadian Olympic team, that should speak volumes. For him to step up, and as a pending unrestricted free agent, for him to decide to stay here in San Jose and see something through, particularly after last summer where we took the C off his shoulder because it was in his best interest and the team’s. He responded with character. He responded with work, and how he played on the ice. That is what you want as an athlete, that is what you want as a teammate. The outside noise, the people that don’t really know Patrick, they are entitled to their opinion but until you truely know somebody and spend time with them everday and see his commitment and his character, I would be very careful to judge him. He is one of the best players in this league. Hockey players never think they are bigger than the team or bigger than the game. Patrick Marleau is one heck of a hockey player. We are very proud to have him as a part of this organization.
More Shark Notes: A few Sharks are making the community rounds, defenseman Dan Boyle will ring the bell at the Winchester Mystery House 13 times on Friday the 13th. The late Victorian mansion has over 160 rooms, and many of the elaborately constructed stairways, windows and hallways lead to nowhere to trap ghosts. Joe Pavelski and SJ Sharkie will represent the teal nation today at Comcast Sports Net’s post-Giants game barbeque. Athletes from several local sports teams and the cheerleaders from the Niners and Warriors will be in attendance. The BBQ will start after the game at 370 3rd Street in San Francisco. Tune in to CSNBA’s Chronicle Live tonight for a special BBQ edition.
A final NARCh North American Rollerhockey Championship recap is up from California Rubber Magazine. The largest amateur inline hockey tournament in the world, this year hosted by San Jose, was expectedly California heavy in the results. 23 of the 32 divisional championship games had at least one Califorinia team participating, and 12 were all-California finals according to CR. One interesting note from the NARCh Pro Division (video of the Pro Division Finals here from Sharkspage), 6 of the 14 teams that qualified were from California (Eschelon Jr. Ducks HB, Eschelon Jr. Ducks, L.A. Pama Cyclones, Mission AKS Empire, Mission Axiom and Mission Momentum). The Tour Mudcats, who repeated as champions with the benefit of a last minute power play, lined up opposite of Mission Labeda Snipers forward and Philadelphia Flyers 2007 sixth round draft pick Patrick Maroon. Also noted from California Rubber, San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was in attendance at Rollin Ice during the Finals weekend.
San Jose Sharks 2010 first round draft pick Charlie Coyle checked in with the Kings blog Mayors Manor on the recently completed USA Hockey evaluation camp in Lake Placid, NY. “I thought I was just going to come to camp and be a grinder. I didnt expect to put anything on the board or anything. So, those two goals boosted my confidence. It let me know that I can play with these guys and that I can be a big part of this. Knowing that I could score and contribute definitely helped me out a little bit,” Coyle told MM. The San Jose Sharks checked in with 2009 second round draft pick Taylor Doherty at Team Canada’s evaluation camp. “The World Junior team means the world to Canada. This is the first step to the development of the team. Everybody here is really excited about it; the players, the coaches and the staff. It’s pretty special for me to be invited here and participate in this camp.” the 6-foot-7, 230-pound defenseman told SJsharks.com last week.
[Update] New San Jose Sharks winger/grinder Jamal Mayers was interviewed Tueday on KNBR’s Razor and Mr. T show with Ralph Barbieri and former Golden State Warriors grinder Tom Tolbert. “I like to think of myself as being tough to play against, using my speed and being physical,” Mayers told Ralph and Tom on his style of play. As a former Maple Leaf, Flame and Blue, Mayers was also asked his thoughts about the Sharks from the outside looking in. “You can tell when (Sharks) come into your building, they are a team that expects to win.”
[Update2] Yahoo Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski has more on the Sharks decision to go with Niittymaki over Nabokov. The examination of goaltending styles with regards to San Jose and Evgeni Nabokov this offseason really began with this post, also with thoughts by SI’s Darren Eliot.