San Jose Sharks EVP/GM Doug Wilson interviewed by Drew Remenda on not meeting expectations, team leaders, grades for coaching staff/GM, and players other teams are asking about in leadup to February 28th NHL trade deadline
Comcast Sportsnet California debuted the latest episode of the Shark Byte television magazine last night after the Sharks-Oilers game. Television play-by-play analyst, Shark Byte host and former Sharks assistant coach Drew Remenda asked San Jose GM Doug Wilson about his thoughts on the team’s recent performance, why his team has not met expectations yet this season, what the team leaders in the locker room need to do to turn the slump around, whether he is interested in making a trade before the Feb. 28th NHL trade deadline, and which players on the Sharks roster other teams are asking about among other topics. Keep an eye on Comcast Sportsnet California or CSNcalifornia.com for the next scheduled airing of the episode (Friday 7:30PM PT, Saturday 10:30PM PT after Blues game).
A transcript of the interview:
[DR] One of your favorite sayings is that we never apologize for setting the bar high. Currently as we are taping this, the Sharks sit in 11th place. Do we need to lower the bar, lower expectations?
[DW] Not a chance. We won’t reduce expectations in any way. We are in 11th place, and we probably belong there with the way we have played.
[DR] Why hasn’t the team reached your expectations?
[DW] It is our expectations because we are all in it together. Players will say they haven’t played up to their capabilities. I will say that we have to reset our foundation. Two areas in particular that are indicative of a good hockey team, play when you don’t have the puck, and do you commit to the structure. You certainly have to have talent. There are a lot of teams the last couple of years that have gone through these stretches, it is how you come out of it on the other side that really reveals what you are made of.
[DR] I want to talk about your head coach. When Todd (McLellan) got here, he talked about wanting the team to play faster. He hasn’t been able to do that. How come?
[DW] It may shock you that we may disagree on this. We do play fast when we play the right way. You take a look at how a Logan Couture or a Ryane Clowe plays, they come back and allow us to play fast. Speed with the puck and how you position yourself is how you play well. We went in to Detroit, we beat Philly, we beat Chicago three times, we beat LA a couple of times, we played fast because we did it the right way. When we don’t, we are an average team. That is the way it works in this league, especially in the Western Conference.
[DR] You put a premium on leadership. You talk about leadership all the time. Four of your guys, Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, make a combined $28 million hit on your cap. Right now they are -36. Do you still have faith moving forward with them.
[DW] Sure I do. You have to have talent in this league to win, but you have to have the sum of all of your parts. I understand people going directly to your top players. Your best players have to be your best players. There are a lot of other players that need to step up and play the game that allows us to have the team concept that allowed us to have success in the past. Each one of them when they graded themselves understands that if you are not scoring, there are other things you can help us play. A teammate to a teammate, getting available for each other is the key to the speed game today.
[DR] Outside noise though, and this is always the outside noise you get asked all the time. With the team sitting where it is, already we have talked about the team not meeting expectations. Are changes forthcoming heading into playoffs?
[DW] We look every day to make this team better. There will be changes. Hopefully the changes are from within that room. The next 10, 11, 12 games will dictate the type of changes we make. Believe me, I don’t have 29 other really good friends calling me now and offering me wonderful deals. The good thing is they call, they like our young players, they like all our picks and things that we have. In this league right now, there is such a shortage of centerman and (defense). The reality is that everybody is looking for the same thing. Parents out there, have your kid start playing center or d, and give us a call. That is how it works in this league, there aren’t enough good players in those positions to go around. Then it puts the onus on teams to draft and develop. Look at Chicago last year.
[DR] What is your philosophy in building this team?
[DW] Get players that love to play the game. When there is a challenge or an opportunity, their hockey sense and IQ, and just their compete factor… Yes you have to be athletic and have a high level of skill, but you have to be able to think the game at a level, and play in a way that you are committed, so if you are stressed or fatigued it doesn’t really matter. You are fundamentally strong, and you line up and play this game. Hockey is the ultimate team game where it is not always the team with the best player that wins. It is the team that is playing well and committing to each other. We haven’t had the committment to play the type of game that we need all year.
[DR] You and your 29 other friends, being the other NHL general managers. When they are looking at your team and calling you, who are they talking about?
[DW] It is not that tough to figure out. I used this line two years ago, they call asking about the gold mine and then they offer me the shaft. The Logan Couture type player, the Charlie Coyle, who just played in the World Junior Championships, Jason Demers, Justin Braun and all that. It is positional, there are players out there I think are trending in the right direction. Teams are looking, saying how do I get players like that on fair contracts going forward. That is a good thing. Our team is positioned in a way that we are going to have a good window of opportunity for the next 3-4 years. That doesn’t take away the present, which were are concerned about because we are not playing the way we are capable of. We are done talking about it, lets line up and get ready for tonight.
[DR] I know you talked to the team about that very point, but you also talked to individual players about the grades for how they have been performing at. In that vein, what grade would you give the coaching staff? What grade would you give yourself?
[DW] The coaching staff is doing everything that they can. I talked about the structure. That has not changed. The grade I would give myself is unacceptable. We are not where we need to be. We believe in these players, but there comes a time when it is not what you say. Go put it together on the ice. In this league, the Western Conference in particular, you need to play at a high level for a period of time and put a streak together, because the seperation is not going to take place here.
[DR] What are your expectations for the second half of the season?
[DW] To have our team play at a level they demand of themselves. When we have a progress report that is littered with C-’s, C’s and D’s, it doesn’t matter what you do that is not going to get it done. We will have to trend up and get into the A’s and B’s category for us to play and be successful in this league.
[DR] Let’s forget where we are right now, what are two things the Sharks need to do to contend for a Stanley Cup?
[DW] Start by the first shift tonight. Stop forgetting or worrying about the future. You have to be in the moment. When the puck is dropped, you have to show the team you are playing against and your teammates that you are ready to go. You have to do that one shift at a time. If you get outside of that context, you are not doing your job.