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Q&A With Doug Wilson

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
With the Sharks reaching the halfway point of the season, discussed the first half of the 2005-06 campaign with Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. 
1)      What has been the biggest surprise for you with San Jose this season?
I’m not sure many things surprised me, but I’ve been impressed with the resiliency of our team.  We did not get down when we lost several one-goal games.  I am a strong believer in character and you find how much you have when you face adversity. 
2)      The team has definitely turned around since the Joe Thornton acquisition, but can one player make that big of a difference?
I think with Joe, it gives the offense a wider margin for error.  We were battling, but coming up just short.  It is a credit to the others that they have picked up their game.  We believe our best hockey is ahead of us.
3)      What was the most difficult part of the 10-game losing streak?
The tough part was we were beating ourselves.  You have to play 60 minutes and pay attention to detail.  During that stretch, we were making mental mistakes that were costing us games.  We went through it a couple of years ago where we lost our attention to detail and were losing one-goal games.
4)      Some point to Jonathan Cheechoo’s success as a result direct of the Joe Thornton trade, but many forget he tied for the Sharks goal scoring lead in 2003-04 when San Jose made the run to the Western Conference Finals.
I think Jonathan is a very smart player and he is taking advantage of an opportunity to play with Joe.  Jonathan guilty early in the year of trying to do too much.  It’s nice to see his offensive game rewarded, but he has been doing the other little things.  He’s a very well rounded player who always plays hard.
5)      Scott Hannan struggled with his plus/minus rating early, but he seems to be playing the type of game now that put him on the Canadian World Cup squad in 2004.
Scott is one of the top defensemen in the league and is getting right back on top of his game.  He’s a very important player for us.  He makes other players better and has been a big impact on where we are at now.
6)      How important is it to have to talented men like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton manning the middle for two-thirds of every game?
It’s really big when you look at the success of recent Stanley Cup Champions.  There was (Brad) Richards and (Vinny) Lecavalier in Tampa when they won the championship and then you look at (Joe) Sakic and (Peter) Forsberg in Colorado and (Mike) Modano and (Joe) Nieuwendyk in Dallas.  They dictated the offense and were very important defensively.  One of them benefits from a potential mismatch.  You have to be strong down the middle to be the type of team to win in the playoffs and to win our ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.
7)      The netminding combination of Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala seems to be playing better in conjunction with everybody else.
They are and our overall defense has been good, not just the goalies.  It’s also the defensemen and the forwards.  Now that both Nabokov and Toskala are healthy it has helped as well. There is also a wider margin for error as were scoring four-and-a-half goals a game.
I like our goaltenders very much.  They admittedly didn’t live up to expectations early, but they are playing fine now.
8)      In what areas can the team improve the rest of the way?
Just being more consistent game-to-game.  When we play the way we can, we don’t have to worry about how the other team plays.
9)      And you obviously like the style Ron Wilson has your club playing.
Our entire staff knows how we need to play so everyone stayed focused early.  There was no panic.  Everyone stayed on track.  They got the team to the point where they were playing 60 minutes.  The coaches have done a very good job. 
The four Sharks headed to the Turin Olympics appear set in the number department.  Russia’s Evgeni Nabokov will wear the familiar No. 20 and German Marcel Goc will likely wear No. 57 (the number he wore during the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Playoffs), but No. 11 is still a possibility.
Joe Thornton will don No. 97 for Canada and Christian Ehrhoff will use No. 10 for Germany.
Jonathan Cheechoo has the seventh-best goal improvement at this stage of the season compared to 2003-04.  Philadelphia’s Simon Gagne leads the way with a plus-21 goal difference, while Cheechoo is a plus-12.
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