PHILADELPHIA -- San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is well aware of his team's strengths and how close it is to attaining the ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup. But he is equally aware of his team's weaknesses, and addressing them is what Wilson meant when he said he was undertaking a rebuild of the Sharks.
It's not often you see a team that finished fifth overall in the NHL standings undergo an offseason rebuild, but Wilson was told by his players following the Sharks' seven-game loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that there were issues in the dressing room that needed to corrected.
Speaking before the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center on Friday, Wilson summarized those issues as a feeling that the players were "co-workers, not teammates" and that is the main thing that separated the Sharks from the Kings.
"We've got talent, a lot of teams in this League have talent, but you've got to give L.A. credit; that was probably the closest team," Wilson said. "Everything you hear about them is how close they were, how they take care of each other. You have to have that. There's teams that had it and lost it, there's teams that are trying to get it. That's really the core of what we're trying to accomplish."
The Sharks were ahead 3-0 in the best-of-7 series against the Kings, giving them four chances to eliminate the eventual Stanley Cup champions. But the Sharks' reaction in the ensuing games is what disappointed Wilson and brought to light some of the chemistry issues.
"When you watch that series, when [the Kings] dug down deeper, we had players trying to do it by themselves," Wilson said. "The other thing is, we missed [defenseman Marc-Edouard] Vlasic, he was our most irreplaceable player. I can't avoid the truth of that. But then you watch the odd-man rushes that we gave up and things like Game 5 in our building, they re-established their game and we looked like we had never played the game. Then Game 6, with 8 1/2 minutes left, they score a goal [to go ahead 2-1]. Instead of saying 'There's 8 1/2 minutes left, we've played well,' we kind of unraveled. That's when it shows its head."
When a team uses the term "rebuild," it generally means a long, arduous process of accumulating high draft picks and constructing a team with those young players. That is not exactly what Wilson is referring to with the Sharks.
He already has some of the young pieces in place and signed to long-term contracts: Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns and Vlasic. But there are older veterans Wilson reportedly would like to move. Captain Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are signed for three more years and each has a no-movement clause.
But Wilson is steadfast in his belief the culture in the Sharks dressing room needs to change, and he feels his version of rebuilding will not be a painful process for San Jose fans.
"We've got key young players in key positions. If we didn't have that, then you're talking about a much longer type of rebuild," Wilson said. "It's not that you're far off and it's not that it can't be fixed quickly."
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