SAN JOSE -- Two weeks after his team became only the fourth in NHL history to lose a playoff series after winning the first three games, Sharks general manager was ready Thursday to talk about what went wrong and what comes next.
The big news: Dan Boyle will not be offered a contract extension, Marty Havlat is gone whether by buyout or some other method, and Brent Burns is moving back to the blue line. All that is covered in the print edition story filed earlier and available online here , so we won't revisit.
But Wilson covered a lot of territory beyond that.
Let's defy logic and go with the future first.
****Hall of Famer Larry Robinson will be back, possibly in an expanded role. There had been talk that Robinson would not be back for a third season as associate coach, that while it was great being in the same state as the grandkids in Southern California, there was still all that work and all that travel to contend with and maybe it was time to hang it up.
Not the case.
"Yes. Larry will be returning to this organization," Wilson said. "I may even expand his role in different areas, as his input and his viewings of things in the last couple of years is of great value in many areas of our organization. We value Larry."
****The Sharks are expecting to have Alex Stalock in training camp and the goalie competition is wide open. Stalock is an unrestricted free agent as of July 1 because he didn't playing in enough games to be a restricted one at this point in his career.
Wilson sounded as if he was counting on Stalock to be back, so let's just presume that since the Sharks stuck with the goaltender when he suffered that severed nerve, there is some loyalty to the franchise and maybe even an unannounced deal at this point.
"What I love about Alex is that's the type of guy you want on your team. His journey, what he's gone through, how he competes. That's part of the identity of when I talk about some of these younger players, they've all gone through some challenges," Wilson said. "That's the type of fortitude that you want so when you get in situations and games they can reflect back on that. Alex has that in spades. He's a special kid."
So can he be a starting goalie?
"I'll say this," the general manager began. "Every one of our young players will be given the chance to take whatever role they want. That includes him. When you go through this you have guys who are aching and begging for that opportunity. If they can come in and do it they can take it."
****Wilson's director of scouting, Tim Burke, has had his name mentioned in the media as a candidate for jobs with the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals. Burke gets credit for a lot of the Sharks draft picks who have reached the NHL, so his departure could be significant.
"Tim is getting focused in on the draft. He's our employee and not going anywhere," Wilson said. "Will we look at doing some things with our staff? Yes. We're exploring an area to add some things and to change some things. The changes that we're talking about are not limited to just player personnel. Tim Burke will be running our draft."
****The folks at capgeek.com say that Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Raffi Torres, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brad Stuart all have contract provisions that limit Wilson's ability to trade them. I asked the general manager if he felt he hampered by those provisions when it comes to doing what needs to be done.
"We don't have that many restrictive contracts and a lot of the details in those contracts have flexibility and windows to them," Wilson said. "Do I feel like we are handcuffed from doing the things that we need to do going forward? Not anymore than any other teams.
"I do feel like the young and key players that are under contract -- the Vlasics, the Coutures, the Pavelskis in particular -- we're very fortunate to have them under contract in fair market value deals," he added. "Flexibility? Every team has to deal with it in this collective bargaining agreement. I don't think we're any better or worse than any other team."
****Along those lines, Wilson was also asked if he regrets the three-year contract extensions given to Thornton and Marleau in January.
"No," the general manager said. "They are very good players. Fair market value contracts. I'll leave that where it is."
Then he went on.
"Obviously when you have results like we just had, everything comes into question. Their statistics support that they are still extremely good and productive players in this league. The criticism, we take that criticism, but there are players that are important players in this league and are viewed that way. Patty won another gold medal this year. Both of them have won gold medals. Would they say that how we played in the playoffs in the final four games is the highlight of their careers? No. But, market place contracts are what they are."
But if Thornton and Marleau continue to form the core of a team that hasn't reached its Stanley Cup goal and just hit a new low, aren't outsiders going to say not much has changed on the ice? How much of the responsibilities lie with those two for the failures that have happened over the last five or six years, and can you say those two will both be back?
"First of all, there's enough blame and responsibility for everybody," Wilson said. "But, there has been some success and accomplishments the last few years, too. This most recent one is the one that resonates with us. When it comes to — you're talking about specific players — any details or contracts or conversations I have with any players will remain in confidence. I'll leave it at that."
Well, is it fair to say everybody on the roster is someone that might not be on the team next year?
"When you enter into this type of phase, no options should be off the table," Wilson said. "You explore everything. That's been the process the last couple of weeks, and it should have been part of the process."
****Whatever lies ahead, Wilson portrayed it as a continuation of the "refresh and reset" that began at the 2013 trade deadline, not a change in direction.
"This is a team that's accomplished quite a bit over the last decade, but regular season success has not gotten us to that ultimate success that we all talk about. We haven't gotten to that level," he said. "We've had seven or eight 100-point seasons, we've had three Final Four appearances, we've had 20 playoff rounds. That all sounds nice and the players and coaches deserve credit for that, but we have not got to where we need to get to.
"And," he added, "I think to do that, you have to take one step backwards to be in a position to go two steps forward."
So how did the Sharks get themselves into this position? How could a team looked like world-beaters for two games and decent enough in a third see it all disintegrate?
"While you've got to give credit to the Kings, honestly we feel like we beat ourselves," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "That's been a problematic theme when you watch this series and when you talk to all the people I've talked to in the last couple weeks, our players, our coaches.
"Too many odd-man rushes, power play struggles 0-for-16, unacceptable effort at the beginning of Game 5, which we all saw," he continued. "One of the personal things that really bothered me was the unraveling in Game 6 after the one goal that was reviewed or questioned. That's not what teams that are trying to win at this time of the year do."
*****Wilson appeaered to be on the same page as coach Todd McLellan, who said after his team lost Game 7 that the Kings were able to fix their problems while the Sharks could not.
"We got beat by a team that reestablished their game and they stuck with it," Wilson said. "We were good for two, 2 1/2 games and then we wavered and our belief system in our game was not there. You can look at that systemically, you can look at it personnel wise, but the fact is we beat ourselves. Completely different than a year ago where it was a different type of series. That's why this one to me resonates deeper and it may lead into some of the changes that we may talk about going forward.
Why didn't message from the coaching staff get through to the players?
"It's a very good question," the general manager said. "When the execution is not followed through there is responsibility for everybody. Whether it is cultural, whether it is individual players, whatever happened I have my opinions on it. Certainly in talking with certain players and coaches there is shared responsibility that when you see some of the changes that take place I think going forward you'll see an answer.
"We're not sitting here going 'Well, we're going to put our heads in the sand and not change some things.' We're going to change tactically, personnel wise and giving the younger guys the opportunity," Wilson said.
****Under the circumstances, someone suggested, it seemed strange that Wilson was so quick to support Todd McLellan and the coaching staff, recommending that they be retained only 48 hours after the Game 7 loss.
Why was the general manager so certain so quickly?
"First of all, there are 12 Stanley Cups between that coaching staff, and you can also clearly see the impact they had in developing those key younger players that we believe in," he said. "If there was lack of development in the Pavelskis and Coutures and Hertls and Wingels and Nietos and Brauns and Vlasics, that would be an issue, because remember what we started last year. We turned this team over to that core of players.
"I expect our young players to take this kick in the ass as probably one of the great extreme learning moments to say, 'You know what? That's not happening again.' When it came to the coaches evaluation, that's two parts of it."