Throughout his lengthy tenure as Sharks general manager, Doug Wilson had never made a mid-season coaching change prior to firing Peter DeBoer on Dec. 11 and promoting Bob Boughner to interim head coach. While no decision has been made on whether or not Boughner will be retained moving forward, it sure sounds like Wilson is heavily leaning in that direction.
Wilson provided an update Thursday in a conference call with reporters on how the Sharks currently area proceeding given the indefinite pause of the NHL season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and spoke very highly of the job Boughner did in an interim capacity.
"We know we've got some work to be ready for next season, whenever that may be," Wilson said, "but while our results for the year aren't where we needed them to be or want them to be, I was pleased to see some of the overall play improved over the last half of the year. I thought more often than not we were playing the game the right way ... I thought we played as a team with identity and structure more so in the second part of the year."
The coaching change didn't produce immediate improvement, but San Jose eventually found a more consistent game with Boughner at the helm. The Sharks went 14-20-3 after the coaching switch, and they likely would have been even more competitive if not for severe injuries to several key players.
"I think Bougie and his staff did a lot of good things," Wilson continued. "They were certainly hamstrung with many of our top players out at times, it was almost like a patchwork lineup. But the things we were looking for, I thought were addressed. Bougie and I have talked a lot about just clarifying how we want to play, and ultimately, getting your team to commit to playing the right way for longer periods of time, regardless of your talent level.
"So, he and I will go through this process. We'll keep those discussions in private, but I think there's no doubt the things that I talked about that improved as the year went on ... Bougie and his staff deserve a lot of credit."
That would seem to be an odd amount of praise for someone Wilson doesn't plan to bring back -- if that indeed is that case. Wilson went as far as to admit Boughner has a significant advantage over other potential candidates.
"Does Bob know our group and have the upper hand in this process? Absolutely," he said. "But I think you have to be thorough in this process."
Indeed, it sounds like Boughner already has a leg up on the potential competition. Still, Wilson knows he wouldn't be doing his job if he was limiting the scope in any way.
"You're always looking for ways to improve your hockey team," Wilson explained. "Whether it be player-wise, staff-wise ... our list of things that we need to address is pretty extensive. You use this time wisely, and you have to explore those things.
"My responsibility is to put the best group together to help us get to the next level, but there's no doubt that those guys are all valuable people to this organization. But are we excluding adding other people? Absolutely not. ... Missing the playoffs is not something we take lightly, and we will explore every area -- players, coaching staff, additional people -- to make this a better hockey team."
It's going to be an extremely important -- albeit unprecedented -- offseason for San Jose.
There is a lot of work to be done to get the Sharks back to a level of contention, and deciding on who will be behind the bench certainly ranks near the top of the list.