ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting that the San Jose Sharks have decided on Peter DeBoer as their next head coach Wednesday, May 27. Apparently the exhaustive search general manager Doug Wilson proudly declared was either completed remarkably fast, was aborted early on or never was a thing anyway.
You will have to pardon San Jose fans for not taking Wilson at his word. He clearly threw his two longest-serving captains under the bus in telling Tim Kawakami nearly a year ago that he wanted “players that want to play here, not just live here,” before clearly backtracking (an inherently insincere gesture) and then getting called a liar by deposed captain Joe Thornton.
Then again, Thornton and Patrick Marleau have only sporadically been the best Sharks when it counted most. They were the last two long-running captains and they had just made wanting to keep their homes part of their contract.
Wilson had a right to call out the two highest-paid, highest-drafted stars on a team that went from bad to historically bad during the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. He felt betrayed for believing in them enough to tie the team to them until they are nearly 38 and getting let down again.
It is just that if you go that way publicly, you better be right that it will make the players feel unwanted enough to waive their no-movement clauses. When it did not, the backtracking that followed was the standard operating procedure of public relations.
A more sincere approach would have been to admit to overreacting emotionally but having now talked through it before the standard “what was said will be kept private” non-response line. If he has not changed his position Thornton and Marleau need to go, Wilson should be sticking to his guns even if just to say they need to go for the team to have a proper rebuild.
For his part on the hiring of DeBoer, initial reports had Wilson declining comment on the story—also standard operating procedure. If it is true, the third man appointed to take Thornton and Marleau over the hump has been determined.
Will he have more success than Ron Wilson and Todd McLellan, or is he just here to wait it out with them until they agree to be shipped off at the 2017 NHL trade deadline? Does he have the presence and resume to exact a culture change in that dressing room with these distractions caused by the war between stars and general manager?
It is hard to know what to expect of DeBoer. Everything from his coaching records during seasons to his fit for this team seems a mixed bag.
In a turnaround of San Jose’s dynamic in the regular season vs. the Stanley Cup playoffs, DeBoer had only one even mildly-successful season among his six-plus as head coach but won an Eastern Conference championship when he did. He also has not had the kind of talent that he will have presuming Wilson does hire him.
He brings the knowledge of a championship approach from the New Jersey Devils but will not have the kind of goalie that Martin Brodeur was as a backbone to that system. He also has plenty of experience working with veterans and also with less-established talent with the Florida Panthers, but not the track record of success with developing talent the Sharks should want based on having at least six players under 25 years old with no more than one full NHL season under their belt being counted on for significant roles next season.
Maybe DeBoer said all the right things in his two interviews. Maybe he was the best San Jose could land given the above-mentioned problems. Either way, he and Wilson will either succeed by the time Thornton and Marleau’s contracts are up or be gone with them.