Editor's Note: For having only existed as an NHL franchise for 27 seasons, the Sharks sure have been involved in a seemingly inordinate number of headline-stealing trades. Some of the greatest players in San Jose franchise history have been acquired via trade, and each has inevitably played a major role in the successful evolution from expansion team to perennial cup contender. This week, NBC Sports California will look back at the five most important trades in Sharks franchise history, continuing with the trade for Doug Wilson.
On Oct. 4, 1991, the Sharks fell 4-3 to the Vancouver Canucks in their inaugural game as an NHL franchise. Less than a month earlier, San Jose made a trade to acquire a player that would arguably have more influence over the franchise than any other employee throughout its existence.
On Sept. 6, the Sharks acquired defenseman Doug Wilson from the Blackhawks in exchange for Kerry Toporowski and a 1992 second-round draft pick. Wilson, a nine-time All-Star with Chicago and a former Norris Trophy winner, immediately became the first captain in franchise history.
Wilson spent the tail end of his decorated playing career in San Jose, helping to provide the Sharks with instant credibility and some name recognition over their first two years in the league. Still, despite his presence, the Sharks finished in last place in the conference each time, and Wilson announced his retirement during training camp ahead of the 1993-94 season.
In total, Wilson tallied only 12 goals and 36 points over 86 games in a San Jose jersey. But his tremendous impact on the franchise had just barely begun.
Fast-forward just under 10 years to the conclusion of the 2002-03 season, San Jose's worst campaign in the last two decades. After finishing dead last in the Pacific Division and missing the playoffs, the Sharks hired Wilson to replace Dean Lombardi as general manager. The former standout defenseman showed an immediate knack for his new position, finding a diamond in the seventh-round rough of the draft by the name of Joe Pavelski one month into his tenure.
As Wilson gained more experience as a GM, San Jose's rosters improved considerably. He, more than anyone, has arguably had the largest influence on the Sharks qualifying for the playoffs in all but one of his 15 seasons at the helm.
The fact that Wilson was responsible for executing the three most important trades in franchise history further cements the one that brought him to San Jose along with them. Had the inaugural captain never arrived, there's no question the last 20 years of Sharks history would look a lot different.