On Tuesday afternoon, the NHL announced its “return to play” format, which effectively ends the season for seven clubs, including the Sharks.
San Jose now faces an offseason of unprecedented length. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hopes the Stanley Cup can be awarded by the fall months, with the next season beginning in December or January, 2021 at the latest.
That gives Sharks general manager Doug Wilson some interesting scenarios trying to turn a team around during very abnormal times.
Wilson spoke with NBC Sports California in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. Here are some highlights from the Q&A:
NBC Sports California: On closure to this regular season, and replicating the last time the Sharks didn’t make the playoffs:
Wilson: “That’s what we’re looking to do again. You learn from experience like this. We didn’t get off to a great start this year, and that’s on us. That’s on all of us. But from this, you can grab some more knowledge and wisdom moving forward.”
On the Sharks not participating in the experimental “return to play” 24-team format that the NHL is hoping to execute:
“Make no mistake, we wish we were playing. Missing the playoffs is unacceptable for this franchise. I think we’ve only done it once since 2003. But we’re trying to make the best of it, which is the point that you’re making. To get Erik Karlsson, and Tomas Hertl, and Logan Couture and Radim Simek all back 100-percent healthy with the extra time.
"If we use this time wisely, we can come out of it better on the other side. We like our team. We have the bones of a good team. We just have to play the right way and get off to better starts to a season than we did this year.”
Does winning a Stanley Cup mean anything different in 2020?
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to put an asterisk besides it or discount the season. We’ve had other seasons without the full complement of games. The playoff format will be arduous, and whoever wins will deserve to win.”
Will announcing the next permanent head coach come soon?
“Now, we have time to build the staff that’s best going forward for this team. Bob (Boughner) has certainly got the inside track. I thought he did a good job with our team, we were playing some really good hockey, the right way, defending better, our PK (penalty kill) was good.
"And then when you lose Erik (Karlsson), Logan (Couture), and Tomas (Hertl), that makes it pretty difficult. We’re still in the middle of that process. We’ll be very thorough.”
On the Sharks' issues with goaltending and team defense:
“Goaltending gets blamed, it’s the easy target to go to. Here we had the best penalty killing in the league — same goaltending, same defensemen, same forwards, yet we struggled five on five. Whether that’s preparation, attitude, commitment, whatever it is.
"Collectively you have to look at it: how can we play better in the defensive zone? That’s all five people, to give the goaltender a chance.”
What is the most uncertain aspect for the Sharks right now?
“It’s really the timeline, you want to work backwards. Players are creatures of habit. The cycles of training and preparing of training and getting ready. This will be the longest time off our team and players have ever had.
"And you’ve got to use that time very well. You don’t want players under-training, or over-training. We’ve talked with our strength and medical people, trying to figure out the best way to get the programs in place so when they come into camp, they’re ready to go.”
On the balance of sports returning soon but not too early:
“I’m proud of our ownership, our players, and our league. Health is the most important thing. This supersedes sports. This is about what’s best for our fans, the safety and good health of everybody.
"It’s going to take everybody to get through this. I’m not sure we’re completely out of the woods yet.”