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Sharks fire Ron Wilson after early playoff exit @NHLdotcom

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -Although the San Jose Sharks ended another disappointing playoff run last week, coach Ron Wilson was optimistic about his future. After all, his Sharks had done just about everything a good team can do, except win a Stanley Cup.

Wilson's only glaring failure still cost him his job Monday.

General manager Doug Wilson fired his coach after the Sharks followed another outstanding regular season with yet another early playoff exit.

"Sometimes the class needs a new professor, and sometimes the professor needs a new class," said Doug Wilson, who claimed the Sharks played only "five good playoff games" among their 13 postseason outings this spring.

The Sharks won the Pacific Division and compiled the NHL's second-best record with 49 wins and 108 points, but the Dallas Stars knocked them out of the second round in six games on May 4. With a few lucky bounces in that series, which featured four overtime games, the Sharks would have been in the Western Conference finals, and Ron Wilson likely would have kept his job.

Instead, San Jose is in the market for a new coach who will attempt to reach Joe Thornton, captain Patrick Marleau and their fellow postseason underachievers after four straight playoff appearances without a Cup final.

"The results (show) we didn't get over that hump," Doug Wilson added. "We kind of got to a certain point, and we got bogged down. You can't just sit back and assume things will be different. I'm not going to apologize for where we're at, but where we're at today is we're not playing, and we think across the board that we should be farther along."

San Jose ended its past three seasons with six-game losses in the second round, and the Sharks lost to a lower-seeded team in three of their four postseasons under Ron Wilson. He won more games over the last four years than any NHL coach, but not enough of those victories came in the playoffs, where he was 28-24.

"In most ways I was shocked when Doug told me, but in some ways I guess I was not surprised," Ron Wilson said. "When it happens when you don't expect it, you're disappointed. I can honestly say that I couldn't be prouder of my work here. I think our team's record speaks for itself. Obviously we didn't win a Stanley Cup while I was here. I'm disappointed in that as any coach would be."

After putting together a 20-game streak without a regulation defeat shortly before the regular season ended, the second-seeded Sharks seemed poised for their playoff breakthrough.

San Jose, the NHL's best road team and the league's best penalty-killers during the regular season, tenaciously held off the Calgary Flames in the first round before falling into an 0-3 hole to the Stars in the tight second-round series.

"I can't control guys falling down," Ron Wilson said, remembering the decisive goal in San Jose's Game 2 loss to Dallas, which was set up by Joe Pavelski's pratfalling turnover to Brad Richards. "I can't control bounces in the playoffs. I would play that series again and go in with the same game plan. You out-chance and outshoot a team, and sometimes it isn't meant to be."

Ron Wilson coached nine seasons in Anaheim and Washington before joining San Jose, where became the Sharks' leader in victories and winning percentage while going 206-134-45 and winning two division titles during 4 1/2 seasons behind their bench despite the franchise's consistent decision to have one of the NHL's lowest payrolls.

His 518 victories are the eighth-most in NHL history, trailing only Mike Keenan and Bryan Murray among active coaches, and he's ninth with 1,091 career games coached.

Rob Zettler and Tim Hunter, Ron Wilson's respected assistant coaches, remained under contract to the Sharks and will be candidates in Doug Wilson's coaching search, the general manager said. Doug Wilson said he could interview his first hopefuls by Tuesday.

"Even though coaching can be a very callous and negative position, my staff and I poured my heart and soul into this," Ron Wilson said. "It's very difficult to talk about this unemotionally."

Wilson, who also has coached the U.S. national team on several occasions, is likely to be a candidate for most NHL coaching vacancies if he decides to jump right back behind a bench. Colorado, Atlanta, Florida and Toronto currently have openings, but Wilson said his first priority is to decompress back home in South Carolina before a summer which includes his oldest daughter's wedding.

"The only thing the team can do better, apparently, is win the Stanley Cup," Ron Wilson said. "There's enough talent there, and that's why I wanted to come back."

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