Sharks GM Doug Wilson gets vote of confidence from owner during a down year

SAN JOSE, CALIF.—San Jose Sharks owner Hasso Plattner is giving general manager Doug Wilson his backing, saying in a news release Thursday he is supportive of Wilson’s plan to return the struggling team back to the NHL playoffs next season.

The Sharks have fallen well short of expectations this year. With a 21-25-4 record, they are 13th in the Western Conference and 11 points out of a playoff spot with just 32 games to go.

“I am supportive of Doug’s plan to get our team back on track,” said Plattner, the Sharks’ majority owner since 2010.

Plattner also stood behind Wilson the last time the Sharks missed the playoffs in 2014-15. Then, following a busy 2015 off-season in which Wilson hired a new coach in Pete DeBoer, spent money in free agency and traded for goalie Martin Jones, the Sharks returned to the playoffs the following year and advanced to their first Stanley Cup final in 2016.

Plattner believes the team can enjoy a similar type of turnaround for next season. “Doug has a long history of leading our team to success,” he said. “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.”

Wilson has been the Sharks’ general manager since May 2003, taking over the job two months after Dean Lombardi was fired. Since Wilson’s hire, the Sharks have made the playoffs in 14 of 15 seasons, reaching the conference final five times but never winning the Stanley Cup.

Wilson fired DeBoer on Dec. 11, after the Sharks started this season with a 15-16-2 record, and named Bob Boughner interim coach.

It was hoped the change would spark the team but the Sharks are 6-9-2 with Boughner and lost all three games of their road trip last week through Arizona, Colorado and Vancouver.

It is believed that Boughner will coach the Sharks the rest of the regular season. The Sharks’ first game back after their bye week is Monday at home against the Anaheim Ducks.

Wilson and the Sharks are expected to be sellers before the NHL’s Feb. 24 trade deadline. Candidates to be traded include forward Melker Karlsson, goalie Aaron Dell and defenceman Brenden Dillon, who are all slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Before the 2015 NHL trade deadline, the Sharks dealt three depth skaters but kept their core intact. It appears that will be the case again this year, as Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Logan Couture and Evander Kane all have at least five years remaining on their respective contracts after this season.

The salary cap hit on the Sharks for those five players will be $41.5 million (U.S.) for the next five seasons, perhaps limiting the team’s flexibility in terms of how much talent it can add for next year. For the 2020-21 season, the NHL’s salary cap is not expected to rise much above its current upper limit of $81.5 million.

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The Sharks also do not have their first round draft pick for this year, as Wilson traded it to the Ottawa Senators as part of the package that brought Karlsson to San Jose.

Another concern for the team is attendance, which has gradually declined over the last three-plus seasons. In 2016-17, the season after the Sharks reached the Cup final, average attendance was 17,508, or 99.7% of SAP Center’s seating capacity of 17,562. Attendance averaged 17,366 in 2017-18 and 17,266 last season, but has dipped to 16,471 through 25 games this season, with just five games listed as sellouts.

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