On Friday, the San Jose Sharks dressed for practice and many players hit the ice a few minutes prior to the scheduled Noon skate. However, instead of the usual off-day practice session on the ice, the players were called back in for a two-hour, closed-door meeting inside the locker room with Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. The structure of the meeting revolved solely around the players with Wilson sitting in the entire time.
“Doug initiated it,” said Evgeni Nabokov. “The players talked.”
“It’s good to get the G.M. and coaches thoughts, people outside the room,” said forward Mike Grier. “He let us know his feelings. He’s always been honest with the guys in the room. When he speaks, everyone takes it pretty seriously and takes it to heart.
“It’s not the first meeting with the players, but the first time that Doug was a part of it,” said Grier.
“Doug and I talked about it,” said Ron Wilson. “Doug wanted to be part of it and express his viewpoints. It was between the players and a lot had to do with what’s happened recently. We’ve done this before. It’s not precedent setting.”
“We’ve had a lot of meetings and Doug wanted to make sure the guys were going in the right direction,” said Grier.
G.M. Wilson was content with what occurred behind the closed doors.
“They (the players) talked and had control of the room,” he said. “It’s healthy and they took over as they should.”
Obviously, the players kept away from the details of the extensive session with Wilson but, to a man, all the players agreed it was a necessary event.
“We had to sort out some things and it’s better to talk about stuff before it’s too late,” said Sandis Ozolinsh.
“It was a good meeting,” said Nabokov. “It was good to hear what everyone has to say. Everyone had a voice.”
“It was a chance to get something off your chest if you wanted to,” said Grier.
“You get to know what’s going on with everyone,” said Jonathan Cheechoo.
It’s not as if San Jose’s season is in crisis as the Sharks sit just one point behind the Pacific Division leading-Dallas Stars and one point from second place in the competitive Western Conference, but the meeting shows that management and the players strongly feel that the status quo is not good enough.
“We’re not satisfied with the way we’re playing and we addressed how to get better,” said Nabokov. “Nobody is satisfied. It’s not just Doug or the coaches, nobody is happy where we are.”
“Nobody is happy with the way we’re playing,” said Grier. “We are lucky to be where we are in the standings. We haven’t played up to expectations.”
The team still feels an extended playoff run and a Stanley Cup remains a realistic goal but not if certain areas aren’t addressed and adjusted.
“Even if we won every game this way (the rest of the regular season), it wouldn’t do us any good in the playoffs,” said Steve Bernier.
“If we start doing the right things, we can still win the division or the conference,” said Grier.
The entire league knows that if Team Teal gets going on the same page, they will be as dangerous as ever.
Many items need to be addressed, but they are all correctable internally.
“It’s not about changing players, it’s about what’s going on on the ice,” said Nabokov.
“We have a lot of talent and believe in the guys in the room,” said Grier. “It’s on us as the players. We don’t need to make a move to get it done. We have enough talent and expect to get it going in the right direction.”
“We have to hold each other accountable and play hard every night,” said leading scorer Joe Thornton
. “The bottom line is we have to play better.”
The length of the meeting wasn’t as issue as things were accomplished.
“Nobody expected a two-hour meeting but the way it went, I didn’t notice it was two hours,” said Nabokov.
“It was a good meeting,” said Bernier. “The meeting made sure we know what we want to do.”
As for the details . . .
“That’s why it was a closed door meeting,” said Ozolinsh.
Observers should not necessarily presume that there was a magic fix that will alter things for Saturday night against the Ducks.
“I know people expect a miracle (cure) and for us to win 6-0 tomorrow,” said Nabokov. “It won’t happen in one day, but it has to happen.”
And they have at least given a good start of that to occur instead of hoping it will play itself out.
The Ducks are the type of team that forced the meeting.
“A good team finds a way to win against the team you should beat and the ones you’re battling with,” said Cheechoo.
Jonathan Cheechoo skated for the second consecutive day and noted his health is getting better.
“Yesterday, at pre-game I went out,” said Cheechoo. “Hopefully soon. It’s a matter of not wanting it to happen again. I don’t want to damage it again and be out a month.
The Sharks will host Anaheim Saturday night at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.