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Sharks Doug Wilson vote of confidence
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Sharks stick with GM Doug Wilson — for better or worse

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The San Jose Sharks are sticking with GM Doug Wilson despite a huge letdown of a season.

Majority owner Hasso Plattner gave Wilson a vote of confidence on Thursday. While it makes sense to comment on a disappointing season, it’s interesting to see it in an official release.

“While we are all very disappointed in the team’s performance thus far this season, Doug has a long history of leading our team to success,” Plattner said as part of the statement. “The last time we failed to meet our winning standards in the 2014-15 season, we were able to quickly rebound and re-establish a winning culture for the next several years. I am supportive of Doug’s plan to get our team back on track.”

Wilson has overseen a long run of Sharks success

Wilson deserves credit for a remarkably strong and consistent run since being named GM in May 2003. The oft-tanned executive must make other GMs feel like he’s a shark smelling blood at times. While the Joe Thornton trade is Wilson’s masterstroke, he often wins other trades — sometimes by a lot.

The Sharks have also won a lot since he took the reins.

The Sharks won four Pacific Division titles in a row from 2007-08 to 2010-11, grabbing the 2009 Presidents’ Trophy along the way. Those peak years ended with heartbreak, yet a run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final silenced a lot of the “choker” claims.

Each time the window appeared ready to close on the Sharks, Wilson would pull a rabbit out of a hat, drafting gems like Logan Couture or trading for key players such as Brent Burns.

Sharks seem stuck

Unfortunately, the 2019-20 season might represent Wilson running out of magic.

Strangely, the Sharks are so stuck that they might just be better off sticking with Wilson, though.

An incoming GM would only be able to do so much about an aging, expensive defense and other concerns. So, again, hoping Wilson has some tricks up his sleeves ranks as an understandable gamble.

Back on Jan. 13, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported (sub required) that the Sharks are looking more at a “reset” than a tear-down, trades-wise. LeBrun points to sensible pieces to auction, such as defenseman Brenden Dillon and defensive-leaning forward Melker Karlsson.

Maybe Wilson could pull off a sequel to getting a bucket of picks for marginal players, like he did with Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray in 2013? If anyone can pull that off again, it’s Wilson.

The Sharks see little incentive to tank since Ottawa owns their 2020 first-rounder anyway. Taking baby steps seems like the only reasonable option, really.

How Wilson must succeed where he once failed

For all of the smart (and/or “smart at the time”) moves Wilson made, goaltending continues to doom the Sharks. Navigating that problem with better results should be Wilson’s top priority, even if it’s a tricky challenge.

Martin Jones served as a nice answer for a while, but the Jones – Aaron Dell tandem has been a disaster for some time. The Sharks could no longer outscore such problems in 2019-20. Jones and/or Dell show up on the wrong end of far too many charts like this GSAA one from Charting Hockey:

Jones, 30, stands as one of the more cringe-inducing Wilson contracts. He’s been abysmal, has a no-trade clause, and the $5.75M AAV runs through 2023-24. (You just cringed, didn’t you?)

(Did I mention that a different GM would face a huge mess if they wanted to blow this up? Yeah, it’s a dicey situation.)

Whether it’s making life easier for Jones or finding a different answer in net, the Sharks need to fix this. Doing so quickly is crucial, too, with an aging core.

Honestly, many of us — probably Wilson included — figured that this team would hit a wall eventually. It’s just that the wall popped up faster than expected, and the Sharks went splat.

It’s up to Wilson to make sure that the Sharks leap over that hurdle next time around, kind of like a … well, a killer whale.

Otherwise it could be, you know, crushing.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Steen becomes first locked-out NHLer in Swedish Elite League

St. Louis Blues forward Alex Steen has gone where no other NHLer has during the lockout — the Swedish Elite League.

The 28-year-0ld Swede has joined powerhouse club Modo, becoming the first NHLer to play in the SEL after the league reversed its earlier decision prohibiting locked out players.

The SEL website reported the news, confirming that Steen is eligible to play in Tuesday’s contest against Brynas.

Here’s more, from Matias Strozyk of Jatkoaika and Elite Prospects:

The move represents a homecoming of sorts as Steen played for Modo during the 2004-05 lockout year with a slew of NHL talent, including Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Peter Forsberg and the current Modo GM, Markus Naslund.

It’s not surprising that Steen’s pushed to get back into action. He missed 39 games last year with a concussion — though he did manage to rack up 28 points in the 43 games he played — and is looking to make good on the four-year, $13.45 million deal he signed with St. Louis in 2010.

Update: Steen is in the lineup for Modo against Brynas IF, wearing No. 20.

Is it time to blow up the San Jose Sharks?

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CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz caught up with Joe Thornton after the San Jose Sharks’ early first round exit (via a 3-1 loss in Game 5) and Jumbo Joe’s sentiment was simple: “[The St. Louis Blues] played great, but it’s a terrible feeling.” Thornton was talking about the five-game series in particular, but it’s tough not to wonder if that terrible feeling might be rooted in that sensation you get when an era is about to come to an end.

(In other words, maybe it’s the hockey answer to “We need to talk …”)

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock was effusive with his praise of the Sharks, claiming that they made a five-game series feel like “a nine-game series.” Thornton’s effort was pretty evident during the series, but one might not say the same for other stars like Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau, who failed to register a single point in the five-game set.

Front office outlook

There’s likely to be the usual round of finger-pointing in San Jose, yet this year might feel different to some. GM Doug Wilson seemed to go all-in by trading for Brent Burns and Martin Havlat, but his trade deadline moves were mediocre at best. (Just watch a Sharks fan cringe when you utter the name “Jamie McGinn.”) Todd McLellan came into town with Red Wings clout and then coached in two series victories against his old employers, but now he’s out of the playoffs in five games just like his old team.

Team structure

If you look at the structure of the Sharks team at CapGeek, you get the feeling that everything is built to last until 2013-14 or so. Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle’s deals run out after 2013-14. Meanwhile, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Doug Murray, Jason Demers and Ryane Clowe will need new contracts after 2012-13 while Antti Niemi and Burns are wrapped up a little longer.

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What does that all mean? Breaking up the Sharks would have to come in a series of conscious decisions. Front office people would need to be fired and players would need to be traded or bought out. If that happens, it sounds like it certainly wouldn’t be easy.

Then doesn’t necessarily mean such a decision would be wrong, either, though. What do you think? Should the Sharks make major changes or small tweaks? What exactly should that entail? Fill us in via your witty and revealing comments.