When you’re lucky enough to write for Hockey News, you’re lucky enough to meet a whole host of hockey personalities.
And if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to know something about a guy like Doug Wilson. San Jose Sharks GM announced Thursday that it is resigning from running sharks for good; Earlier this season, the 64-year-old San Jose, who was temporarily removed from the leadership, was given medical leave in late November, but Wilson chose to end his time in the Sharks Run after being in the position for 19 years.
An achievement for Wilson, who has been in power for 19 years with the same team. But playing off 14 of those 19 years is even more impressive. And he did it with real class.
Yes, Wilson’s Sharks have struggled in recent seasons, but it shows you how difficult it really is to win at the NHL level – even when you’re sure to have Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. And let us never forget how incredible Wilson was as a player. We are referring here to a Norris Trophy winner. He is the man who made his name in the history of his hometown team Ottawa 67, as well as the Chicago Blackhawks and, finally, the Sharks, the team he skated for when he retired from the Hockey Premier League in 1993. The pressure was on him to play competitive hockey from the first time until his last day as an NHL player, and he always gave you the most when talking about hockey.
And, since he was appointed GM of San Jose in May 2003, Wilson has built a multi-competitive Stanley Cup playoff team that, to be honest, is probably a bit long in its current form. But again, whether you are a player or a coach or a GM, it is sometimes not easy for people to realize how to run almost everything to win a cup. You need to be healthy, or at least, health-conscious, to win it all. You have to have a deep team to deal with the storm of injury that is almost certainly coming. Yes, you need to measure your luck too. But if only one thing works against you, it is difficult for the parties not to take the water and eliminate it quickly.
This is not to excuse Wilson’s inability to win a cup in almost two decades. By that metric, he did not succeed. But he was about to play and grow the game in a responsible way in California and he succeeded by that metric. There are a lot of NHL management people who would be happy to give Wilson a chance to win like the Sharks in his time.
In an ideal world, Wilson’s sharks would retire him with a championship run. But most people never leave the game when they like. If Wilson’s health is unstable, he should be given full attention. He laid the foundation for great expectations, and he had unwavering faith in those he worked with. His era will be fondly remembered, and Wilson will be remembered as a fierce competitor on and off the ice.
In a 32-team league NHL, the playoff race for a decade is going to be even more challenging for the teams. The pay cap is all about talent redistribution, and sooner or later, the sun always sets on the good days of an organization. This happens to every franchise.
All you can do is give your best shot and hold your head high in what you have achieved. And you can be proud of what Doug Wilson has done.