San Jose's Management Key To Sharks' Success

In the last couple of weeks, I've looked at a number of different ways to measure management success.  I've used Bird Watcher's Anonymous' Marginal Cap Efficiency to show the mediocrity of the Sutter family.  I'd previously used MCE to laud David Poile and the Nashville Predators, but didn't note that the San Jose Sharks are in second place right behind the Preds.

I looked at the rolling averages of MCE since the lockout to flatten out the yearly highs and lows and found that San Jose never drops out of the top five in rolling averages in any year.  I flipped that around to find Marginal Floor Efficiency, which rewards the frugal General Managers more than those willing to spend and even in this look, the Sharks are never below league average and 5th overall since the lockout.

The Sharks are second in total points in the NHL over the last five years with 544, trailing only Detroit's 566.  No matter which metric is used to measure management efficiency, the San Jose Sharks rank among the league leaders.

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Since the league came back from the lockout, Doug Wilson and the Sharks have spent to the cap three times, compared to Detroit's four.  The Sharks have not benefited from superstars on entry-level contracts like other extremely successful teams (Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington, Chicago); rather, Wilson has put a core group of well-paid stars in place, surrounded them with developing younger players, role players, and impact veterans, and has dominated the Pacific.

Except for Jonathan Cheechoo (and to be honest, while some people accurately predicted his regression, no one predicted that he would hit a wall), Wilson hasn't signed a terrible contract.  He's signed guys like Rob Blake and Dan Boyle to sizable contracts, but those were deals where the player had a chance to play to the number.  He's landed guys like Manny Malhotra and Mike Grier for a song and he's been able to bring in veterans via trade without giving up significant assets.  Landing Dany Heatley from Ottawa for spare parts was a coup and should have been a lesson to Edmonton management on the prices in a supply market.

The Sharks' player development effectiveness has been top-notch as well.  With Marleau and Thornton on board to take on tough minutes, Wilson has had the luxury of bringing Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell (before the injury) and now Logan Couture along very slowly, forcing them to earn playing time by proving they belong in the NHL. 

This off-season, however, there were questions.  The Sharks lost Nabokov and Blake retired and the the number one question in San Jose was, "Who will replace Rob Blake?"  Wilson talked with Willie Mitchell, Zbynek Michalek, and Kim Johnsson, but couldn't come to an agreement with any of them.  In the end, Wilson chose Niclas Wallin and gave him a $2,500,000 deal with a No-Trade Clause.  The money saved on defense went to long-term contracts for Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, as well as Joe Pavelski's final restricted free agent contract.  The move not to shore up the blueline was a curious one, but if anyone has earned the right to make a curious move, it's Doug Wilson. 

His contract negotiation has been excellent, his player development model has been outstanding, and his trades have been on-point, meaning Wilson has easily performed at the same level as Ken Holland or Davild Poile.  Unfortunately, as with David Poile in Nashville, Wilson isn't considered one of the game's great General Managers because the media and hockey pundits don't care about efficiency - to the people with the loudest voices, management success is about Stanley Cups and Wilson hasn't been lucky enough to win one as a General Manager.  In 1991's "Baseball Abstract", Bill James proved that there is a large amount of luck involved in the playoffs and San Jose has yet to happen upon the requisite luck necessary to win a championship. Wilson doesn't have the national media trumpeting his greatness like Mike Gillis or the Family Sutter, and he's not about self-promotion like Brian Burke.  Doug Wilson is one of the most efficient General Managers in the game, and when he finally gets lucky enough to win a Stanley Cup, he'll be recognized as one of the best.

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