Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson has had success at all of his NHL coaching stops, all the while, adapting to the talent around him. During his initial coaching stint, he maneuvered the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to a playoff visit despite working with expansion-level talent.
Then, when he moved on to Washington, he steered an older Capitals lineup to the Stanley Cup Finals. Most recently, he took the Sharks to their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
Ron Wilson has proven that no matter the scenario, he can prepare his troops.
"It depends on the situation," said Wilson. "You coach the talent you have and you have to be flexible. You can't have one particular style. You try to win with the people you have. You can't improve your speed, but you can adjust how quick you move the puck and get the illusion of speed."
These days, Wilson doesn't need to worry about always trying to get the right matchups.
"I do believe we can play any style, but I'd rather force people to play our tempo," he said.
No matter how adaptable Wilson is, there are several keys that follow him everywhere, no matter what the talent level.
"Preparation, attention to detail and work ethic," he said. "I won't compromise on those. They are all interrelated. All teams have a chance to win if they do those three things."
"That approach is what makes Ron a great coach for this team and we are fortunate to have him," said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. "He is great at both ends of the ice and he is a very bright guy who will find solutions. We know how we want to play and he fits us like a glove."
These days, the Sharks head coach has a fast, talented team where most of the top talent is entering the prime of their career. And while he has worked with the talent available to him at his previous two coaching gigs, his current club might be the best match for his ideal coaching goals.
"It is definitely what you want," said Ron Wilson. "Every coach says he wants speed and skill but not every team has the leadership and character. You also have to have a good work ethic. I demand that and if a team doesn't have it, it will catch up to them."
And he appreciates the talent in front of him.
"The scouts have found players that can skate," he said.
The meshing of the players with the coaches philosophy has not only raised the victory totals, but the enjoyment as well.
"It's really fun," said Ekman. "I like to be creative with the puck. I like to try and do things instead of trying not to do them."
"We try to create a fun environment, but we have to keep our focus and purpose in everything we do," said Ron Wilson. "I think the players get that about me. Once they understand that, they know what they have to do
And hockey will likely be even more fun for the HP Pavilion faithful with the new rules changes.
"I'll evolve to the rules and utilize the talent we have," said Ron Wilson. "Right now, we have a lot of speed and skill and we want to be a puck control team in the new NHL."
Simply put, Ron Wilson could coach virtually any team in the NHL because of his versatility.
Wilson may be chameleon-like in some ways, but there is a core group of standards that he will never sway from.
"What you don't want to do is compromise your principles of what it takes to win," he said.
One area that players can appreciate with Wilson is they know that whoever deserves to play, will play.
When Nils Ekman arrived in San Jose, most would have predicted a Cleveland assignment for him. Whether that was or wasn't the case, Ekman's training camp and preseason play dictated he be a Sharks regular. Then the Swede, who was never truly given a chance with the Rangers, went on to set a Sharks franchise single-season plus/minus record, crack the 20-goal barrier and lead the team in assists.
"He is really thorough and fair," said Ekman. "He pays attention to detail and that is important because the line is so small between winning and losing."
The Sharks bench boss aim to be fair to everyone.
"The fact that the coaches treat everyone the same is great," said Ekman. "A lot say they do, but they really don't."
Like all 30 NHL coaches, Wilson's goal is to win the Stanley Cup. However, having seen his father and uncle capture the ultimate prize, he knows the goal is easier said than done.
"Our goal every year is to win the Cup, but we have to follow the process of getting there" said Wilson. "Our focus is on our goals and not the wins and losses. We want to focus on the process and doing it right and the wins will come."
So when did Ron Wilson realize he had a potential Cup winner?
"Probably around Christmas (of 2003-04)," said Wilson. "Even the worst team can have everything go right for a bit, but we started to develop consistent habits. We started to see it in practice and then it started showing up in games. That's when we knew the guys had bought in. When the players learned to trust me, I learned to trust them."
This year he and Sharks fans have the luxury of knowing what the club has from the beginning of the season.