Ratto: When you can see the window closing

For veteran-heavy Sharks, team’s cracks becoming chasms

Ray Ratto
December 12, 2019 - 8:38 am

Doug Wilson has traditionally been more of a gambler with his roster than his management team, so when he decided Wednesday that Peter DeBoer could pull this broken sled no longer, his choice to fire him and replace him with Bob Boughner was well out of his operational comfort zone.

Secondly, firing him now, with four other coaches already fired in the previous fortnight, three of them for non-results reasons, meant explaining that he was being fired specifically BECAUSE of the team's performance.

But most of all, Wilson did DeBoer because he is looking at a team whose window of Cup contention is finally and maybe firmly closing.

This is a veteran-heavy team whose cracks are becoming chasms. The goaltending is poor by any measure. The defense is uneven, even with $31 million ($26M of it cap) of the budget expended on three of them. The future of the team is skittish, and the veterans are audibly aging. The third and fourth lines are largely inert, and in general, their goal differential (minus-25, second worst) is lying about its record (15-16-2).

They are a team that may have already shot its best bolt in Games 16-28 and made no progress in the standings because they are 4-15-2 on either side of that run). Such erratic work makes general managers nervous, and nervous general managers tend to fire rather than defend the course.

Wilson couldn't stand still unless he thought the players could sort themselves, for this is not a tactical failure. We will need more time to determine if the players stopped listening or if they stopped performing, but DeBoer asked the same things in 2016 when the Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Final, and he asked the same things last year when they reached the Western Conference Final. But he's not getting the physical response, which leads to the conclusion that maybe last call has been declared on a two-decade run of parade-less success.

Most people think that DeBoer will have a new gig soon; he is the fifth coach fired this season, but seven were canned during play a year ago, and 40 this decade. This is what hockey people do.

But Wilson never had. He likes continuity, and has stayed with his core group far longer than most organizations would consider prudent because most organizations don't make the playoffs every year. Time, however, is up on that, and now Boughner must teach a languid team to sprint... maybe for their very futures.

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