The Sharks held their annual state of the team Monday night at HP Pavilion with the franchise’s decision makers on hand to answer questions about last season and the upcoming season.
President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison, Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson, Head Coach Ron Wilson and the NHL’s leading goal scorer, Jonathan Cheechoo, all fielded questions from the audience.
Below are several topics that were discussed.
Ron Wilson on not playing Parker or Murray in the playoffs.
The situation with Scott parker was he only played four games all season long. There was a stretch where he didn’t play 30 games. I get to see him practice and I didn’t think he was ready. The other point, I didn’t want put him in a position where something serious could happen to him after not being able to battle all season long. We just didn’t feel he was ready. He skated in some pregame warm-ups, but we knew he wasn’t ready.
For Doug, he got hurt prior to Olympics and he went 3 ½ weeks without skating. That affected his play. When we put him in, he struggled. We wanted to put him in Game 5 and 6 but he had a sinus infection and did not make trip to Edmonton. His infection came at the wrong time as we were committed to go with him.
Doug Wilson on drafting Europeans with the new CBA.
It does impact our decision making as we only have two years now from when we draft them. In the past you would let a players stay over there. If a player is high end, he will go high. Now, teams may not have the rights by the time some players are ready. College players can also be free agents when they graduate. It does affect how we draft.
Doug Wilson on Owen Nolan possibly returning.
We look at every player. I certainly did look at and talk to Owen prior to the deadline, but he wasn’t ready yet. Owen has to get healthy and pass the hurdle of playing under these north-south rules. I have great respect for what Owen did on this ice. A lot of blood, sweat and passion was left here. If a player can help us get where we want, I’ll look at it.
Doug Wilson on Toskala and Nabokov.
It is a great problem to have. I give a lot of our goaltenders credit for signing contracts. Are we going to be able to keep two number one goalies, probably not and a decision will be made. I will listen to calls that will make our team better going forward. I can’t say enough about how our staff develops goaltenders.
I think we can win a Stanley Cup with either one of them.
Doug Wilson on improving.
We know we had a good year. We didn’t have a great year. We played really well from Dec. 1 on, but we have to look at how we get better. I care about winning a Stanley Cup. What can we do to get better? All the little things need to do to get better. We don’t do this just to make the playoffs.
Ron Wilson on momentum in the playoffs.
In the playoffs, there are little shifts of momentum that just happen. I don’t know if I would call it luck, but we were left with such a bitter taste, we were six or seven minutes from winning Game 3. In Game 4, we really showed our character by grabbing a 3-1 lead and had a fourth goal on the stick and Joe Thornton
hit post, then they came down and scored a lucky goal. On the next goal, Toskala made a mistake and the momentum shifted. Looking back you can say if this happens, maybe we’re still playing. You can’t sit on a lead anymore and manage the game the way you used to.
Ron Wilson on personnel changes.
I’m not too worried about personnel changes. We’ll learn from situations we never faced before and I think it will make us a better team. We want to be in the top echelon. Two year ago we were in the top four, this year were in the top eight and we were the only team to make it to the conference semis that was in the conference finals in 2004. .
Ron Wilson on the power play in the playoffs.
The power play is a momentum thing. In the Nashville series it was the best in the league. Our power play was in top five after Joe came. I’ll give Pronger a lot of credit for shutting us down. Cheech’s bad wrist affected our power play as well. I do want it to be consistent all season long.
Doug Wilson on personnel changes.
There are areas we have to address on our team. Now 2/3 of our team has gone deep into playoffs for two years. We want to keep this group together to win many Cups.
Cheechoo on the new rules.
It worked two ways. It opened up the game and there were a lot more o chances. It didn’t really change our style too much. You just get a few more chances and it makes it easier for a forward. Our defense did a great job of adapting.
Doug Wilson on Cheechoo.
He goes to the tough areas to find the goals. Those are playoff goals. I don’t like to mention players from another team, but Ryan Smyth plays hard and Cheech epitomizes that for us.
Doug Wilson on toughness and no retaliation for Torres’ hit.
The first player I acquired in a trade was Scott Parker. The hit on Milan was a cheap hit, a blow to the head. It was a one-goal game to that point. I don’t like anyone taking any liberties with our players. In the playoffs, we had injuries.
Doug Wilson on UFA’s.
If we talk about any player before July1, it’s a tampering charge. The three last teams in the playoffs, Carolina, Buffalo and Edmonton, didn’t really go into the market. Carolina singed three, one not playing in the playoffs, and Buffalo one. We went after Scott Niedermayer and were closed to getting him. I talked to Scott a lot and he was close to coming here. We have to keep the players we have and if a player with the right credentials comes along, we’ll go after them. It has to be the right person with the right fit. I had permission to get Niedermayer within 30 seconds. We want a chance to win a Cup every year. We don’t want to win and have scorched earth the next year.
Ron Wilson on special teams.
The regular season was almost an automatic on the power play and you can fall in love with what you’re doing. Edmonton blocked a lot of shots. Sometimes you try to be too perfect on the five-on-three and we were guilty of that.
Cheechoo on signing the extension. I’ve enjoyed my time here and San Jose is a great place to play. The fans are great to us, great to me and I feel it’s a great fit. The move to bring in Joe, we’re on the right path. We have about everybody coming back next year.
Doug Wilson on Korolyuk
Alex might have been in that role (with Cheechoo and Thornton) had he come back last year. I talked to Alex a week and a half ago. The new rules fit him like a glove. He has a choice. Ron and I would welcome him back. He and his wife are from Russia and he gets paid well over there. He has to make decision if wants to play for the Cup playing with a Cheechoo, Thornton and Marleau. Hopefully prior to July. We have an arbitrated contract with him at a certain numbers. If not, we’ll go do some other things.
Cheechoo on elevating for next year with teams focusing on them.
When you play, you can’t be satisfied with your game. I happy with success, always want to improve. With me, I’ve been labeled with slow feet and I’ve spent the last 5 or 6 summers working on that. I work on my shot every summer. I just try to improve on the year before. We have a few ideas of what we need to improve on. We need to be prepared for the extra attention and get players habits before they get ours.
Doug Wilson on missing pieces.
If Korolyuk is not back, maybe a player for that role (on Thornton line).
Ron Wilson on the enforcer role.
The role is there, but the player has to play a regular shift. The true enforcer is gradually being phased out. Carolina won without one in their lineup. Edmonton tried get back in things by taking Georges Laraque out. The playoffs have always been like that. When Scott Parker is healthy, he can play. He has the resolve to improve and be a solid contributor.
On not going after Torres.
Maybe we go after Torres, they get a five minute major, score two goals and people are asking why we went after him.
Cheechoo on winning the trophy and overcoming obstacles
It a big honor to play in this league and to win the trophy. Everybody faces obstacles, but for me, I left home when I was 14 to play hockey and that was the biggest obstacle I faced. Then I had to get my body in shape. I like to eat and I had to cut some stuff out.
Cheechoo on what is tough to play against.
More so now, guys that are mobile and can move their feet. They can stay in front of you. The big guys have to throw an arm out to stop you.
Cheechoo on playing with Ekman.
Nils is a good player. I played against him in Sweden the year before and he led the league in points. He is a great player and a great passer. I enjoy playing with him and Scott Thornton when he was there. You play with who they put you with and both did outstanding jobs playing with us.
Ron Wilson on Goc and Ehrhoff.
I think Marcel became a man as the season went on. The first month of the season, he was probably our best player. When we got Joe he went from a two to a three and his offense evaporated. It might have been the effect of his friend Marco Sturm being traded. Tim Burke said in a guy's first year, ‘they are just treading water’ and that was the case with Marcel. The last month, he began to settle in.
Christian had times early in the first couple of months . . . I had my doubts about him, but I learned this year that students learn at a different rate. Thank God Doug was patient and for the work that Zettler and Hunter did in the background. Zetts works with the D and a lot of his work was directed at Christian. He as ability to skate, a strong shot. He is a bit of a wild stallion and we are still breaking him a little bit.
Ron Wilson on Marleau on point.
By putting him on the point, it gets him out there more. Carolina uses for forwards almost all the time and they just won a Cup. It cost them a game and people questioned it. It works most of the time. I’ll live with the mistakes due to the great plays he makes. Patty loves going back there because he gets more ice time.
Ron Wilson on his most memorable moment of the season
It was the five-on-three kill here. When Scott Hannan knocked it out, I thought we were doing to win the Stanley Cup. Our players appreciated the roar from you guys. That is the loudest roar I’ve heard in the playoffs.
Ron Wilson on the shootout problems.
If we were winning the shootouts, you would love them. In the end, we worked on it a lot in practice, maybe we shouldn’t have practiced it at all. Maybe our guys were thinking too much. A lot of highly skilled players didn’t score. Our goalies had the worst record of all in the shootout. It wasn’t that we couldn’t score, but we couldn’t stop the other team. We spent three months practicing and maybe next year we won’t do that and just let the guys react.
Doug Wilson on Nieminen.
Ville is a winner. He’s won a Cup and he is the type of guy you need in your lineup. Nimo fits a need for this hockey team. We acquired him two days before the trade deadline and the first thing he did was run over Ryan Smyth. We hated him in Calgary. In the room, he just wants to win and is an important part of the hockey team.
Doug Wilson on UFA’s.
The majority of our guys are under contract. Alyn McCauley is a UFA and Scott Thornton, we have a team option on him. We will make a decision tomorrow. It will be the right decision for everybody. We have several players we need to make qualifying offers on.
Doug Wilson on Warren Strelow’s health.
Warren is an unbelievable story. 72-years-old, a transplant, a broken femur and other things as well. We miss him being around and he will continue to work for us, but it is health based. I think this team has helped keep him going. If we thought we had a bad day, it is nothing compared to what he went through.
Greg Jamison on Shark Byte
We’re talking with FSN Bay Area about continuing it and I think our inclination is to do so.