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Sharks GM looking for 'piece that fits' before Trade Deadline

Wilson talks team chemistry, Karlsson's adjustment to San Jose in wide-ranging discussion with NHL.com

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

NHL.com is sitting down with newsmakers for interviews leading up to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25. Today, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson talks about Erik Karlsson's adjustment, the Sharks' turnaround and the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center on Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks already have made major trades. They acquired forward Evander Kane at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26 and defenseman Erik Karlsson on Sept. 13. That's two difference-makers within the last year.

So, will general manager Doug Wilson and the Sharks do much before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25? Do they need to?

The Sharks (28-13-7) are third in the NHL standings with 63 points.

 

[RELATED: 2018-19 NHL Trade Tracker]

 

After a 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 1 in Karlsson's return to his former home, the Sharks were 12-10-5. Wilson spoke to the team at Bell Centre on Dec. 2, and the Sharks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 that night. Coach Peter DeBoer announced his assistants were changing responsibilities two days later.

Since Dec. 2, the Sharks have gone 16-3-2 while scoring 4.28 goals and allowing 2.57 goals per game.

They're on a seven-game winning streak that includes victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the top team in the League; the Vegas Golden Knights, the team that defeated them in six games in the Western Conference Second Round last season; and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that defeated them in six games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Their scoring has been balanced, propelled by two Norris Trophy winners on the back end. They have no one among the top 17 scorers or top nine goal-scorers in the League, but 10 players with at least 22 points and seven with at least 10 goals.

Brent Burns leads NHL defensemen with 52 points (nine goals, 43 assists); he leads the Sharks in scoring by 10 points. Karlsson is fifth among NHL defensemen with 42 points (three goals, 39 assists) and is tied with forward Logan Couture for second in scoring on the Sharks.

Goaltender Martin Jones is second in the NHL in wins (22).

Video: EDM@SJS: Burns goes top shelf for power-play goal

"The things that you identify that successful teams have, we're trending in the right direction," Wilson said. "We feel good about it. But if there's a way that we can add a piece that fits ..."

He paused.

"Sometimes you add a piece that doesn't fit, or you get a guy that has got to be accepting of his role," he said. "You've got to balance your needs, the integration time and truly what your own group is doing, the dynamic and chemistry of our group, which is really a pretty special group."

Per his policy, Wilson did not comment on contract negotiations with pending unrestricted free agents Karlsson and Joe Pavelski. However, before the Sharks held their pro scouting meetings this week, Wilson did take time to discuss a number of other topics with NHL.com.

 

On Erik Karlsson's adjustment

"He sees the game, he does things, that can surprise people. You need to know that this guy is capable of things that are [unusual]. He cares so much about his teammates he didn't want to step over them, either. Not deferring, but 'this is the way things are done here, and I want to fit in' and all that.

"So, there was an adjustment in how we do things during certain situations. What's the best way to make this work? You can put five great players together and not necessarily have a great power play, because everybody has a role. You've got to read and react off people. We felt that we could ultimately have a power play with five points of attack, but it's not just going to work overnight, because people are used to doing things certain ways.

"The adjustment was fully expected. It's why getting him in the early part of the year instead of doing a deal like this later in the year to me was really important."

Video: SJS@EDM: Karlsson's snap shot eludes Talbot

 

On the meeting in Montreal

"There was a lot going on. Our travel schedule had been tough. Erik is a caring person that put a lot of his heart and his soul into Ottawa. His wife being from there, I'm sure there was a lot of ... That day was probably marked on the calendar. If you care and you put a lot into it, yeah, that carries a little weight on you

"Did we turn it around after that? I give our players and coaches all the credit in the world. Pete made an adjustment to his staff, which is a credit to all the staff. Just like a line. It's the same people, just different roles and delegations. We have a great leadership group. They knew that we could play better. At that point, we were giving up a lot of 2-on-1s, a lot of breakaways for whatever reason. Our goalies were taking a lot of heat. We win as a team, lose as a team.

"We are a blue-collar hockey team that's increased our talent level, and we got back to that."

 

On Burns and Karlsson

"[They play together] on the power play a lot, and at key times in the game.

"It's point of attack. Who are you going to try and stop? You going to try to stop him? Or him? Or him or him or him? We knew it would take a while just to find the best way to utilize them, but some of the plays make back there, I just shake my head and go, 'Oh, my god.'

"They're both great penalty killers too. Great, not good."

Video: NYR@SJS: Burns bags one-timer to extend point streak

 

On DeBoer

"Pete is so bright. He's open-minded but also his actions match his words. He's the right coach for this team. He makes sure everybody has enough ice time, but we are a four-line, six-D, two-goalie team. Finding that sweet spot and coaching high-end players, there's a gift to that."

 

On analyzing the roster

"We're the sum of all our parts. We get a lot of secondary scoring. We have a lot of guys that we trust out there, and they trust each other. [Jones] is second in the League in wins. In spite of us giving up all these 2-on-1s and breakaways around here, we knew we could tighten up and be better. Our guys believe in our goaltending, and we do too.

"I laugh when people jump to conclusions and say, 'This guy's not playing well.' Well, maybe we're not playing the right way, and it reflects on his game. But we believe in him, and last time I looked, he's got [22] wins. That's kind of what it's all about."

 

On the process leading up to the deadline

"A big part of trade deadline is integrating players. We only have 19 games after the trade deadline. So historically we'll identify what it is we might need, what ingredient we might need, and then factor in, 'Can we get them, what's the cost and what is the integration time?' So, there is a process that we follow.

"Right now, if you look at a lot of the indicators, we're getting a lot out of a lot of people, meaning different ways. We think we've got better hockey ahead of us. But we like our goaltending. We like our defense. I think we have four lines. We're getting a lot of secondary scoring. We're getting guys that are having good years. A few guys are saying, 'Well, I can be even better.' Yeah, you can. Then you just want to get playing the right way."

 

On hosting the All-Star Game 

"We had an amazing one in 1997. We had the outdoor game when we played [the Los Angeles Kings in the 2015 Stadium Series] at Levi's Stadium, which was great.

"There's no better owner than what we have [in Hasso Plattner]. He loves this community. He gives us what we need. He cares about our fans. He lets us do whatever we need to do hockey-wise. He's amazing.

"And I think it was an opportunity for our fans to see this type of event. I'm proud that we've got three guys [Burns, Karlsson and Pavelski]. We could probably have four or five guys. But our guys earned it. Our fans get to see the great players in this league, and they deserve that."

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