SAN JOSE, Calif. - The San Jose Sharks fired coach Ron Wilson on Monday after his club followed another outstanding regular season with yet another early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Sharks won the Pacific Division title and compiled the NHL's second-best record with 49 wins and 108 points, but the Dallas Stars knocked them out of the second round in six games on May 4. San Jose has ended its past three seasons with six-game losses in the second round, and general manager Doug Wilson decided his coach would take the fall for his talented playoff underachievers.
"Ron helped foster a new era in San Jose Sharks hockey with some record-setting, regular-season performances," said Doug Wilson, who got his job five months after the club hired Ron Wilson in December 2002.
"However, ultimately we have decided that it is time for a different voice and a different approach to lead this team," Doug Wilson added. "We are proud of what we've accomplished as an organization, but we feel that this team is capable of achieving greater success."
Wilson, who coached nine seasons in Anaheim and Washington before joining San Jose, became the Sharks' leader in victories and winning percentage while going 206-134-45 and winning two division titles during 4 1/2 seasons behind their bench. His 518 victories are the eighth-most in NHL history, trailing only Mike Keenan and Bryan Murray among active coaches, and he's ninth with 1,091 career games coached.
The Sharks led the NHL in total victories over the past four seasons, but San Jose never repeated its trip to the 2004 Western Conference finals in the past three years despite fielding one of the NHL's most talented rosters starring former MVP Joe Thornton, captain Patrick Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
After putting together a 20-game streak without a regulation defeat shortly before the regular season ended, the second-seeded Sharks seemed poised for their playoff breakthrough, with many experts picking them to win their first title. But San Jose barely held off Keenan's Calgary Flames in the first round before falling into an 0-3 hole to the Stars in the tight second-round series, which featured four overtime games.
Wilson's cerebral, sarcastic nature has appealed to many of his players over the years, but others chafed under his relatively strict management style. Though Doug Wilson didn't hire Ron Wilson, the two former NHL defencemen seemed to forge a strong working bond during their half-decade together.
As Ron Wilson's players cleaned out their lockers last week, the coach seemed to think he would have another year to coax post-season success out of the Sharks.
"You look at my record, it's second to none, literally, in the sport, so I'm not even worried about that," Wilson said. "I don't think there has to be too many things changed about our team. We're ready to roll next year, too. We've accomplished more since I've been here than any other team in the league except win the Stanley Cup. That's the next thing we check off on our list."
Wilson, who also has coached the U.S. national team on several occasions, is likely to be a candidate for most NHL coaching vacancies if he decides to jump right back behind a bench. Colorado, Florida and Toronto currently have openings.