Sharks

Sharks GM Doug Wilson details factors that led to coaching change

Sharks

It doesn't take a mind reader to know that general manager Doug Wilson hasn't been pleased with the Sharks' season thus far.

Amid the multiple extended losing streaks and frustrating play, San Jose has fallen well outside of playoff position, and the team's recent performances haven't exactly given the impression that it is about to turn the corner.

Through 37 games, the Sharks have the worst goal differential in the NHL and have allowed the most goals in the Western Conference. One of the few bright spots has been the penalty kill, which ranks as the best in the NHL, but that has made San Jose's 5-on-5 struggles so difficult for Wilson to comprehend.

"It's tough to find an answer to it," Wilson told NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker ahead of San Jose's game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. "I think it's partially attitudinal, desperation. Partly tactical, but it doesn't make sense. I mean, here we are, not being able to defend 5-on-5, yet we're the No. 1 [penalty-killing] team in the league.

"So it's been something we've been working at, we've talked a lot about, but I think a lot of it comes from the mindset ... the desperation to kill a penalty so the other team doesn't score you'd like to see transferred over to 5-on-5. So, you're battling that hard to get the puck back, because that really is the foundation of everything that we do in this game is by defending well."

The dissonance between the Sharks' penalty kill and 5-on-5 play undoubtedly had a significant impact on Wilson's move to fire Peter DeBoer and replace him with interim head coach Bob Boughner less than two weeks ago. It was a decision Wilson didn't take lightly.

 

"It was one of the most difficult things I've done since I've been a GM," Wilson explained. "Pete and his staff I think did an outstanding job. Unfortunately, sometimes the message is not being heard or whatever -- the results were not there. So we thank them for everything that they did."

While it wasn't easy for Wilson to make the switch, he prioritized certain characteristics in the new additions to the coaching staff.

"The fact that we brought in ... people that we all know, that know our players and bleed teal was something that we felt this team needed," Wilson added. "Again, the consistency, the lack of 5-on-5 game. Our goal differential I think is minus-30 now. You just have no chance of winning in this league when it's that way. So, change was needed, unfortunately, and it takes time to make changes, too.

"So we're trying to integrate some changes both tactically and personnel-wise, and that takes a lot of work and a little extra time."

The Sharks have made several roster moves since the coaching change, including the addition of forward Stefan Noesen, who was acquired off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Wilson took notice of Noesen due to his effort level, and it paid off when the 26-year-old scored in his first game with San Jose.

"He plays the game the right way," Wilson described Noesen. "And what we're trying to do is establish playing the game the right way for 60 minutes. And it is a mindset, it's contagious. You've got players that individually can do it, but you need it done collectively. We're getting there, we're making some progress, but we're not quite there yet."

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Beginning Sunday night against the rival Golden Knights, the Sharks enter a critical stretch that likely will determine whether or not they qualify for the postseason. Wilson hopes the team will follow Noesen's lead.

"To play the right way," Wilson said of what he's looking for from San Jose over this crucial stretch. "I think the last couple of games, there was key moments in the third period that cost us games, and I think what happens when you're trying to make change, you just have to stay with it. You've got to avoid the frustration of not getting the results. The results will take care of themselves if you play the right way for longer periods of time.

"That's what we need and that's what we're looking for."