SAN JOSE -- Do not ask me what Hasso Plattner is thinking about the Sharks' recent faceplant. Plattner is German. I do not think in German.
Also, I am not worth $7.2 billion, which is what Forbes magazine estimates as Plattner's assets.
I am not, therefore, able to get inside the head of Plattner, who on Jan. 30 purchased controlling interest in the Bay Area's NHL franchise.
We must assume, however, that Plattner is in an enttäuscht mood about the Sharks right now. That's the German word for "ticked off enough to grind up all the players into fetid sausage." Or at least I think that's what the word means. I might have read the translation incorrectly.
The question is, will Plattner contemplate any drastic moves after his new acquisition has spent February losing nine of 10 games? How safe are the jobs of general manager Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan?
Hockey is infamous for quick trigger-pulling. Already, less than two months into this lockout-shortened season, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff and Columbus general manager Scott Howson have been dumped. Since the end of the 2010-11 season, more than half of the NHL's teams have fired head coaches.
So what is Plattner pondering? Monday, an email request for an interview or statement from the owner, submitted through the Sharks' office, received no response. That's no surprise. The same day Plattner took over the franchise, he told reporters that he would not be
"It's not good if owners of sports teams are talking to sports journalists, bypassing the (general) manager," Plattner explained.
But what if there are issues raised about the general manager and the coach and their performances?
"Then I will say I am very happy with them," Plattner said. "We have some problems in the season, but we are working on those."
Of course, that was before the Sharks went south so strangely after winning their first seven games this season. Whatever the team is "working on," it's not working. The principal problem has been scoring goals. Or rather, not scoring goals. Over the 10-game slump, the Sharks have put just 12 pucks in the net.
Monday after practice, I peered into several players' lockers, looking for those missing goals. Were they on the shelf above the uniform hooks? Behind the helmets?
"You don't see them?" asked Joe Pavelski. "They're there."
Could have fooled me.
My gut feeling about Plattner, based on his time as a relatively patient minority owner of the Sharks before he assumed hegemony of the franchise, is that he will continue to show confidence in Wilson's ability to right the ship.
For one thing, I'm not certain that Plattner has spent enough time in NHL circles to identify a replacement if Wilson is dismissed. For another thing, Wilson's track record of producing playoff teams and playoff revenue -- the Sharks haven't missed the postseason since 2003 other than in the canceled 2004-05 lockout season -- earns him the right to fix the roster. If Plattner makes a general-managing change, it wouldn't be until season's end.
Also keep in mind that, for all of the Sharks' troubles, they remain on the playoff cutoff line. Yet after 17 games last season, the Sharks' record was 11-5-1 compared with their current 8-6-3. If the scoring drought continues through the next three games, all at home -- Colorado on Tuesday, Detroit on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday -- you can't expect Wilson to stand pat.
Would that place McLellan's job in jeopardy? After practice Monday, he was asked whether he felt as if he was on the hot seat.
"Since July 13 of 2008, I think I have been," McLellan said.
That's the day he was hired.
"There's always talk about whether you have 'lost the room,' " McLellan said. "You hear people use that phrase about losing your players' attention or about a team losing confidence, and I always wonder, where does that happen -- do you lose it at the mall? I've been in hockey a while. I think you know when you've lost the room. I don't think that's happened."
No, what has happened is pretty easy to diagnose. Just examine the raw numbers. The Sharks' primary scoring core -- Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle -- is holding up its end. A year ago after 17 games, those five players had accounted for 29 goals and 75 points. This season after 17 games, they have accumulated 30 goals and 72 points.
The issue is secondary scoring. It has been absent in a significant way, really, since the beginning of last season after Wilson sent forwards Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota -- and in return essentially received defenseman Brent Burns and winger Martin Havlat. Burns and Havlat haven't been terrible. They have just been either frequently mediocre or frequently injured.
In fact, let's look at another set of numbers. The Sharks have scored 39 goals in 2013. Last season after 17 games, they had scored 50 goals. What caused those other goals to vanish?
Here's the answer: Let's check out five Sharks in that secondary scoring group -- Burns, Havlat, Ryane Clowe, Michal Handzus and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. In the first 17 games last season, those players combined for 13 goals and 41 points. In the first 17 games this season, they have combined for five goals and 17 points. I know it's a difference of only eight goals, but five of the Sharks' nine losses this month have been by one goal, either in regulation or in a shootout. Those eight goals would have helped.
"The ability to score at the right time hasn't been there," Clowe said, correctly.
Wilson could help McLellan and his players by making a move for more scoring before the trade deadline. But to get something good, you have to give up something good. And the more honest Sharks concede they are thinking about what might happen if the slump continues.
"It can affect you if you want it to," Boyle said. "But you fix that by winning hockey games. You've got to find a way to keep that negative stuff out."
McLellan thinks some of his players are squeezing their sticks too tightly and need to relax. He thinks the defensive effort has been there recently. He thinks one or two good goal-scoring games could swing back the positive momentum.
But of course, what McLellan thinks doesn't matter as much as what Wilson thinks -- and especially, what Plattner thinks. Anyone know the German phrase for "enough is enough?"
The Sharks' recent slump is principally due to an offensive shortage. Through their first 17 games, the Sharks have scored 11 fewer goals than they did in their first 17 games last season. But it's not the fault of these five guys. Through 17 games, they have virtually identical totals as they did in 2011-12.
PLAYER G-A-Pts G-A-Pts
Patrick Marleau 6-10-16 12-6-18
Joe Thornton 5-12-17 4-14-18
Joe Pavelski 10-8-18 6-9-15
Logan Couture 7-6-13 6-6-12
Dan Boyle 1-10-11 2-7-9
TOTALS 29-46-75 30-42-72
So what happened to those missing 11 goals? Take a look at these five Sharks who have not yet produced on the same level as they did in 2011-12. Burns and Havlat have missed several games because of injuries and Clowe has missed a game because of a suspension -- but the end result is still that they have still accounted for 11 fewer goals than they did through 17 games a year ago. It is a coincidence that the numbers match?
PLAYER G-A-Pts G-A-Pts
Ryane Clowe 4-8-12 0-6-6
Martin Havlat 1-8-9 3-2-5
Brent Burns 4-3-7 0-0-0
Michal Handzus 2-3-5 1-1-2
Marc-Edouard Vlasic 2-6-8 1-3-4
TOTALS 13-28-41 5-12-17
Nhat V. Meyer/staff; Getty Images; bloomberg
Hasso Plattner, top, the man atop the Sharks hierarchy, hasn't publicly said how he feels about the job done by coach Todd McLellan, left, and general manager Doug Wilson, right. But surely he can't be happy with the team's results the past month.