Doug Wilson has the 12th most goals, 237, and 15th most points, 827, among defenceman in NHL history. He was the sixth pick in the 1977 draft and played 1,024 NHL games, winning the Norris Trophy in 1982, and skated in eight all-star games. He was an excellent player, and he has become one of the best General Managers in the NHL.
The San Jose Sharks hired Wilson on May 13th, 2003, and in 14 years as GM the Sharks have made the playoffs 13 times, gone to the second round nine times, the third round three times and the Cup Finals once.
The Sharks have the best record, 635-346-133, in the NHL since Wilson took over, and only Pittsburgh has played more playoff games and has more playoff wins than the Sharks since 2003/2004.
The Sharks haven’t won a Stanley Cup, but they have been the most consistent organization in the NHL under Wilson’s leadership. From the moment he took over, Wilson hasn’t been afraid to make a trade, but he has also maintained stability within the organization.
He inherited Ron Wilson as his head coach and worked with him for four seasons, before hiring Todd McLellan. McLellan was the head coach for seven years before Peter DeBoer took over. Wilson has had three head coaches in 14 years.
Roy Somner has been the AHL coach for the Sharks since 1998/1999.
Tim Burke has been the director of scouting for the Sharks since 1996. When Wilson took over, he worked closely with Burke, and since 2003 no team has produced more games played among their drafted players than the Sharks (3,123).
The Sharks draft and develop very well, but Wilson’s best asset might be his willingness to make trades, and often make big ones that benefit his organization.
DRAFTING AND TRADING
One month after being hired Wilson showed everyone he wasn’t afraid to trade and he would listen to his scouting staff. He made nine trades on June 20th and 21st at the 2003 draft.
His first trade was acquiring Scott Parker from Colorado for a fifth round pick (Brad Richardson).
He acquired the 16th pick for the 21st, 66th and 107th pick from Boston. The Sharks took Steve Bernier while the Bruins selected Mark Stuart, Masi Marjamaki and Byron Bitz with their picks.
He acquired the 47th pick from Calgary for the 97th, 143rd and 173rd pick. The Sharks selected Matt Carle while the only Flames pick to play in the NHL was Greg Moore (143rd and 10 GP).
His best trade came from listening to his scouts late in the draft. The Sharks acquired the 205th pick (seventh rounder) from Philly in exchange for sixth round pick in 2004. The Sharks selected Joe Pavelski.
Later that summer he acquired Nils Ekman from the Rangers for Chad Wiseman. Ekman was the Sharks’ second leading scorer in 2003/2004, as the Sharks made it to the Western Conference Finals in Wilson’s first season after missing the playoffs the previous year. Ekman scored 55+ points his first two seasons in San Jose, while Wiseman played five NHL games.
On November 14th, 2003 Wilson traded Mikka Kiprusoff to the Flames for a 2005 2nd round selection. Kiprusoff had played 46 games for the Sharks and had a .885sv%. They had Evgeni Nabokov as their starter, and Vesa Toskala as the backup, with both posting great numbers. The Flames won the trade early, no question, but the Sharks were able to draft Marc-Edouard Vlasic in 2005.
Wilson has trusted his scouting staff and has moved up in the first round numerous times.
They traded up from 28th to 22nd in 2004 and took Lukas Kaspar. They gave Dallas the 28th (Mark Fistric), 52nd (Jason Churchill) and 91st pick (Alex Edler).
In 2005 they moved up to eighth and grabbed Devon Setoguchi, and gave Atlanta the 12th (Marc Staal), 49th (Chad Denny) and 207th (Myles Stoesz) picks.
In 2006 he traded the 20th (David Fischer) and 53rd (Mathieu Carle) picks to Montreal for the 16th choice (Ty Wishart).
In 2007 he acquired the ninth pick from St. Louis and chose Logan Couture in exchange for the 13th pick (Lars Eller), 44th pick (Aaron Palushaj) and a 2008 third round pick (Ian Schultz). The Sharks had acquired the 13th and 44th picks earlier in the day from Toronto for Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell.
They also acquired the 28th pick (Nick Petrecki) from Washington for the 41st (Kevin Marshall) and 57th (Eric Mestery) selection.
In 2013 they traded the 20th (Anthony Mantha) and 58th (Tyler Bertuzzi) pick to Detroit for the 18th pick (Marco Mueller).
The Sharks didn’t always win the trades when they moved up in the draft, but listening to your pro scouts and trusting them has seen the Sharks win those deals more often than not, and they never lost badly. It also breeds trust within the organization when the scouts know their GM will listen to them.
Wilson has empowered his scouting staff and it has paid off. These players have all played 200+ NHL games.
Sixth.. Milan Michalek (747 games played)
16th..Steve Bernier (637)
47th.. Matt Carle (730)
205th..Joe Pavelski (888)
94th…Thomas Greiss (208)
126th…Torrey Mitchell (666)
Eighth…Devin Setoguchi (516)
35th…Marc-Edouard Vlasic (893)
36th..Jamie McGinn (598)
Ninth…Logan Couture (582)
173rd…Nick Bonino (478)
201st… Justin Braun (529)
177th… Tommy Wingels (448)
186th… Jason Demers (573)
28th…Charlie Coyle (419)
47th…Matt Nieto (338)
17th…Tomas Hertl (328)
55th…Chris Tierney (284)
27th… Nikolay Goldobin (61)
171st…Kevin Labanc (132)
Ninth…Timo Meier (115)
Wilson always seems to be involved in big moves.
His best trade occurred November 30th, 2005, when he acquired Joe Thornton for Wayne Primeau, Brad Stuart and Marco Sturm. Thornton had 33 points in 23 games with the Bruins before the deal and then scored 92 in 58 games with the Sharks to lead the NHL in scoring with 125 points.
Since the day of the trade, Thornton has scored the third most points in the NHL, with his 973 points trailing only Alex Ovechkin (1,097) and Sidney Crosby (1,088). That trade allowed the Sharks to remain a consistent top team in the NHL.
On September 12th, 2009, he acquired Dany Heatley and a fifth rounder for Milan Michalek and Jonathon Cheechoo. Heatley scored 82 and 64 points in two seasons with the Sharks, while Michalek had 33 and 60 point seasons. Cheechoo had 14 points in 61 games his first year with the Sens, but then played in the AHL for three years. He couldn’t keep up to the pace of the NHL.
At the 2011 draft, Wilson acquired Brent Burns and a second round pick (they traded it for Dominic Moore later) to Minnesota for Charlie Coyle, Devin Setoguchi and the 28th pick (Zack Phillips). Since the trade, Burns has scored the most points, 554, among NHL D-men and won the Norris Trophy last year.
He dealt Heatley to Minnesota for Martin Havlat. He felt Heatley was slowing down. Heatley did score 53 points his first year with the Wild, but then dropped to 21 and 28, although he was injured in his second year. Havlat could skate, but he couldn’t stay healthy in San Jose. He had 27 points in 39 games his first season, but in three years he never played more than 48 games.
At the 2015 draft, the Sharks acquired Martin Jones from Boston for Sean Kuraly and a first round pick in 2016 (29th, Trent Frederic). Wilson landed a consistent goaltender and was able to give up a first rounder the following year, which happened to be the year the Sharks went to the Cup Finals, so it was a very late first rounder.
He acquired Evander Kane this past February for Daniel O’Regan, a 2019 first round pick and a fourth rounder in 2020. While many in the NHL were worried about Kane’s attitude, Wilson was confident Kane would fit in behind the veteran leadership of Thornton, Burns and Pavelski.
Kane scored nine goals and 14 points down the stretch and added another four goals in nine playoff games before signing a seven-year extension. Many, me included, felt the seven years at $7 million was a bit rich for Kane, but Wilson has preached loyalty for years in San Jose and he believes if you show a player you believe in them, they will play better.
I’m curious to see how Kane does long-term in San Jose, because Wilson’s track record for acquiring players and having them flourish in San Jose is pretty long.
RE-TOOL ON THE FLY
The Sharks have never had a rebuild, instead Wilson simply re-tools on the fly. At the 2013 trade deadline, Wilson moved out three slower veterans, thinking the game was getting even quicker in the future.
He traded Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh for a second rounder in 2013 and 2014.
He dealt Martin Handzus to Chicago for a fourth round pick (Handzus played great for Chicago in their Cup run).
He moved Ryan Clowe to the Rangers for 2013 second and third round picks and a second rounder in 2014.
He then acquired Raffi Torres from Arizona for a third round selection.
The Sharks swept the Canucks in the first round and lost in game seven to the Kings in the second.
Early this morning Wilson acquired Mike Hoffman, Cody Donaghy and a fifth round pick in 2020 from Ottawa for Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman and a sixth in 2020. Then he moved Hoffman and a seventh in 2018 to Florida for a fourth and fifth in 2018 and a second in 2019.
Essentially, he shed Boedker’s $4 million, Bergman, sixth and seventh round picks for Donaghy, a second, fourth and a fifth.
Wilson opened up $4 million in cap space and is poised to make a push for John Tavares, if he doesn’t sign with the Islanders, and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Wilson has done a great job of planning ahead during his time as GM.
Yes, the Sharks haven’t won the Stanley Cup, but you need some luck to win the Cup every year, and there is no guarantee you will win. What Wilson has done during his time as GM is ensured that the Sharks are competitive every year.
They win a lot of games. They win a lot of playoff games, and while I’m sure he won’t be satisfied until the Sharks win a Stanley Cup, when you look at their drafting, developing, trading and signing players under his watch, the Sharks have been incredibly successful.
Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington were able to win the Cup, but they also had many top-three picks. Most superstars emerge from those slots.
The Sharks highest pick was sixth, in 2003, but Wilson acquired a former first overall pick in Thornton in 2005 and I won’t be surprised if he lands another one in Tavares this summer. If he doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of planning.
For my money, Wilson is one of the best, if not the best, general managers in the NHL.