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Sharks GM says coaches should stay after collapse

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson angrily vowed Friday that changes are coming in the wake of a historic collapse in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he said he'll recommend to owner Hasso Plattner that coach Todd McLellan and his assistants be retained.

The Sharks became the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-7 series after being up 3-0, falling to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference First Round.

"To our organization and to our fans, this is not a nick or a scratch," Wilson said. "This is an open wound. When the emotions are raw, the emotions should run deep and resonate and live for a long time. We have already started the process of what decisions we're going to make. … There are options. Status quo is not one of them.

"The process has started. It's not too complicated, fairly easy to figure out. Our coaching staff is part of that and … my recommendation is that our coaching staff be part of this going forward."

Wilson said he'll report to Plattner after he meets 1-on-1 with players and coaches and makes a thorough evaluation of the team and what changes need to be made. Ultimately, it's up to Plattner to accept or reject Wilson's recommendations. Wilson said he expects Plattner to evaluate his job performance too.

"Absolutely, and it should be," Wilson said. "What needs to be done for this organization is what's right for the organization. Nobody is better than this organization. We put a plan in place a year ago. We talked about it six months ago. We now have some very critical decisions to make.

"I have purposefully not talked to Hasso because the meetings I need to take place and the recommendation needs to be presented to him with the right process being followed. We're very fortunate to have him as an owner. We're very, very fortunate. And he should be extremely disappointed."

Most of Wilson's anger was pointed toward San Jose's players, not McLellan. Sharks players, in turn, accepted the blame for the collapse.

"Since I've been here, he's been a great coach," defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "He's one of the best coaches in the League. He came from Detroit, (where he) won a Stanley Cup. And when a team doesn't do well, it starts there. Everybody looks at the coach, but it's the players that play. He put in a great system. First three games we sweep, and then they sweep us. A lot of the blame he'll put on himself, but it's all on the players."

The Sharks who do return next season can use this collapse as motivation.

"We have to figure out what we want to do here," forward Raffi Torres said. "Do we want a good team? Or is the past just going to haunt you and it's going to be the same thing over and over again, or are we really going to get [ticked] off, come back and see what we are really all about? You have to have a year now. We're gonna win a lot of games next year, probably make the playoffs again. At the end of the day, if you don't show up and you don't want it and really, really want to win, it's not gonna happen."

Blowing up the Sharks roster is not one of Wilson's viable options. Most of the key players are locked up long-term. Forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are signed through the 2016-17 season after receiving three-year contract extensions earlier this season. Vlasic is signed through 2017-18, and forwards Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are signed through the 2018-19 season. Torres and forward Adam Burish are locked up through 2015-16.

According to, Thornton, Marleau, Burns, Vlasic and Torres have some form of no-trade clause in their contracts.

Wilson could buy out up to two contracts under terms of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement. Forward Marty Havlat, with one year left on his contract, would be a likely target if Wilson decides to go that route. Since coming to the Sharks from the Minnesota Wild on July 3, 2011 in a trade for Dany Heatley, Havlat has been injury-plagued and a disappointment. He scored 27 goals in 127 regular-season games and two goals in eight playoff games for the Sharks. He appeared in one playoff game against Los Angeles.

The Sharks have five impending unrestricted free agents, with 37-year-old defenseman Dan Boyle the marquee name on that list. Defenseman Scott Hannan, 35, promising goaltender Alex Stalock, fourth-line forward Mike Brown and forward Bracken Kearns round out that group.

"I've made it clear that I want to come back here," Boyle said. "I like it here, of course. Then again, there's two sides of it. They got to want me back. We'll see how it plays out. I don't have anything to go on right now. I believe I'm a part of the solution and not part of the problem going forward, but we'll see what happens."

The Sharks have three impending restricted free agents who were in the lineup for all seven games against the Kings: forwards Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard and defenseman Jason Demers.

Goaltender Antti Niemi is approaching the final year of his contract, as are defensemen Brad Stuart, Justin Braun and Matt Irwin and forward Andrew Desjardins.

The Sharks conceivably could make a change in net after what Niemi conceded was an up-and-down season. Stalock posted better numbers as the backup and made a strong case to be re-signed and promoted.

"I really like it here," Stalock said. "It's the only organization I've been with, and they've been great to me since Day One."

Wilson said young players Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto made huge strides this season and will be in line for greater roles next year. Defenseman Mirco Mueller, the Sharks' No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, will likely have a shot to make the team next season as a 19-year-old.

"We had the growth of some young players, and believe me, some of these young players will be getting an expanded role on the team and some of the guys that aren't here will be playing on this team next year," Wilson said.

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