He carried out two of the most grandiose transactions of the 21and century in the NHL.
Posted at 11:51 a.m.
This week, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson announced his departure for health reasons after 19 years of service. Only David Poile, of the Nashville Predators, has worked longer in this vital position in the National Hockey League.
The arrival of Joe Thornton in 2005, obtained for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau, ensured the sustainability of the Sharks. San Jose made the playoffs twelve of thirteen times and won fourteen rounds after that trade.
Thornton had 1,055 points in 1,104 games with the Sharks before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2020.
Doug Wilson, 64, also failed to touch the core of his team to get defenseman Brent Burns in 2011. He traded Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a late 2011 first-round pick from the Minnesota Wild. He got a 2012 second-round pick in return in addition to Burns.
The first-round pick was 28and rank (Zack Phillips, no NHL game), second round at 37and rank. This choice ultimately served to secure Dominic Moore, a rental player.
Burns has been one of the best defensemen in the League over the past decade, including four seasons of over 65 points, including one of 83 points and a Norris Trophy awarded to the defenseman par excellence. He also finished in the top three for the Norris race on two other occasions.
Thanks to Thornton and Burns, and also to brilliant draft picks over the years such as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, the Sharks enjoyed a long era of dominance.
Despite all their regular-season success — eight 100-plus seasons between 2007 and 2019, and three of 98 or more — the Sharks have never won the Stanley Cup, arguably Wilson’s biggest disappointment.
But the Sharks conquered their California market by dominating their opponents season after season, to reach a Stanley Cup final in 2016 and three square aces in a very competitive division with Los Angeles Kings and Ducks from Anaheim to the top.
Like any long-term manager, there is always one exchange too many. That of defender Erik Karlsson in September 2018 did, and still hurts the Sharks.
Now would have been a good time for a reset with an aging core. But when you are desperately trying to finally get your first Stanley Cup, the temptation is strong to delay the rejuvenation phase.
Although he was only 28 and already two Norris trophies, Karlsson would enter a phase of decline. There was never any chemistry. The Sharks reached the semi-finals in their first year, but will miss the playoffs for a third straight season this spring.
Their steep drop in the standings allowed the Ottawa Senators to draft Tim Stützle third overall in 2020 with the first-round pick obtained from the Sharks. They also received their eventual first center, Josh Norris, drafted in the first round by the Sharks in 2017, in addition to second-round picks in 2019 (goalkeeper Mads Sogaard) and 2021 (Zack Ostapchuk).
Karlsson’s arrival and signing forced the Sharks to let go of captain Joe Pavelski, among other things, to comply with the salary cap. Despite being 37 years old, Pavelski has amassed 121 points in 126 games over the last two seasons in Dallas. His departure hurt.
Doug Wilson thus leaves an organization in bad shape. They didn’t have a first-round pick to regenerate in 2016, 2019 and 2020 (but did get a late first-round pick, 31and in total, for Barclay Goodrow against a 2020 third-round pick). They also traded Norris, who was their first-round pick in 2017.
Their salary situation is not rosy. The center Logan Couture, 33, is still efficient, but he is under contract until 2027 at an annual salary of $8 million. He will then be 38 years old. Karlsson’s contract, 31, will also end in 2027. He earns $11.5 million per year.
Brent Burns, 37, will have three more years on his contract after this season at $8 million annually. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will still receive $7 million per year until 2026. He is 35 years old.
A sum, varying between $1.6 million and $2.9 million over the next five seasons, will also obstruct the payroll for the buyout of goalkeeper Martin Jones’ contract.
Good luck to Doug Wilson’s successor…
Three Rivers for Josh Brook
A season of 75 points in 59 games for the hope of the Canadian, defender Josh Brook, in his last year in the junior ranks, in addition to a participation in the World Championship, made many CH fans dream. Some analysts have even dreamed of an incarnation of Brent Burns.
But the performances of 19-, 20-year-old players in their fourth year as juniors are often misleading. Brooks seemed lost in his first training camps with the Canadiens and his understanding of the game was largely deficient. But his admirers did not budge, he would become a leading defenseman in the NHL.
Brooks struggled in his first two years in the American League, Joël Bouchard even used him on offense on some occasions. Then he suffered this serious injury in the middle of winter last year, when he was starting to find his bearings.
After six games with the Rocket recently, after a long absence, the organization chose to demote him to the ECHL with the Trois-Rivières Lions on Thursday. He’s never been this far from the NHL, especially with the arrival of Justin Barron, Jordan Harris and eventually Kaiden Guhle, Logan Mailloux and company.
Some will talk about another disappointing draft pick. They are disappointed because they were dangled with a top defender. But the vast majority of players drafted at the end of the second round, as is the case for Brook, at 56and rank in 2017, meet a similar fate.
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