On Wednesday evening Sharks Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson held a private event with about 350 season ticket holders. There were a few moments where this conference became lightly heated, mostly when some season ticket holders pressed Wilson for information about accountability in the organization. As you may be aware, the Sharks have played without a team captain this season, opting instead to use four alternates, of which Joe Thornton has been apart of. When asked about why the veteran Thornton was stripped of his captaincy after last season, Wilson responded, “He cares about the game so much. The reason we took the ‘C’ off him… Joe carries the weight of the team on his shoulders, and he’s got such a big heart that when stress comes on him, he lashes out at people and it kind of impacts them. The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe and I sat him down and said we need other players to step up and share this. He got it. He didn’t like it, but he got it and he understood it.”
The Sharks went on to shut out the Predators that evening, miraculously, with goaltender Antti Niemi earning his second straight first-star honor in as many games.
Friday, after the Sharks morning skate and the taking of the traditional team photograph, Joe Thornton was made aware of Wilson’s comments from the night previous. Thornton had this to say in response, “I think Doug just needs to shut his mouth. I think that’s the bottom line. All I’ve got to say is I’ve been here every day working hard. I haven’t taken a sabbatical. He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth.”
There have been plenty of signs that team leadership and players have not been seeing eye-to-eye with coaching and management since last springs painful playoff loss to division rival Los Angeles, but Friday’s events come at the worst time – when the Sharks are in the hunt for a wild card playoff spot and have won four of their last six.
Until Friday, the biggest question surrounding this team was whether or not they would make the playoffs. Now the true colors of the front office have come to light and many fans wonder if Wilson has become a cancer to the team. In 2014, when Marleau and Thornton were both signed to three year extensions, Wilson told the fans, “We think we’re set very well for the future, and we also think we’re in a very good position to focus on the now.”
Less than a year later, a “rebuild” was announced, and the Sharks continue to appear to be the team that’s on the outside looking in.