Doug Wilson Steps Down, Search For New Sharks GM Begins

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson at a news conference Sep 18, 2018 stepped down on Thu Apr 7, 2022 after 19 seasons as GM. Interim GM Joe Will is running the club until a new general manager is found (AP News file photo)

By Mary Lisa Walsh

SAN JOSE- Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson has been quietly but conspicuously absent for most of this season. Last Fall, shortly after being inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame, Wilson began a leave of absence for health reasons. Assistant GM Joe Will stepped in. On Thursday, the Sharks announced that their GM of 19 years had stepped down. In a press release, Wilson said of his decision:

“Finally, I want to thank everyone who has reached out during my leave of absence. While I have made great progress over the last several months, I feel it is in the best interest of the organization and myself to step down from my current duties and focus on my health and full recovery. I look forward to continuing my career in the NHL in the future.”

Thursday morning, the Sharks released a statement from owner Hasso Plattner:

“I want to personally thank Doug for his 19 seasons as general manager of the San Jose Sharks. Doug and his staff produced remarkable results over a span that very few NHL teams can match, highlighted by our 2016 Stanley Cup run. Doug has been an integral part of this franchise since the team’s inception in 1991, and his impact – on and off the ice – will continue to be felt long into the future. Doug, and his wife Kathy, will always have a place as members of the Sharks family.”

The team in charge of the search is made up of Sharks President Jonathan Becher, Interim General Manager Joe Will and Hasso Plattner. It does not seem that anyone expected Wilson to make this decision at this time. Of their plans so far, Becher said:

“Quite honestly, this is a late-breaking thing, so to say we have a hard list of criteria written down and I can cite them all would be exaggerating. Joe and I are going to meet this afternoon, put together the outline of the kind of person we’re looking for, probably bat around even some original ideas.”

Accordingly, the Sharks have no set timeline for finding a new GM. While they do not expect to fill the position before the draft, they anticipate finding someone before the next season starts. While the search is described as an external one, they have not absolutely ruled out choosing someone from within the organization.

Becher was asked whether they anticipate any changes to the team culture or style of play. He said:

“The culture of San Jose as a destination, as a family environment, that is highly unlikely to change as part of that. The culture of winning first, winning in the right way, that is unlikely to change. As I said in my opening remarks, Doug’s fingerprints are all over this thing and they’re unlikely to disappear. But as candidates come through they’re likely to have ideas that we haven’t thought of before and that’s what we want to be open to.”

Sharks Head Coach Bob Boughner heard the news Thursday morning. He called the news “stunning,” and said: ” Doug means a lot to me personally, I know what he’s done with this organization and, you know, his legacy is tough to compare. I think that a lot of people in that dressing room, including myself, have a lot to be thankful to Doug for. It’s, I guess, a changing of the guard and we’re trying to get our head around that.”

Several Sharks players spoke with the media Thursday afternoon, expressing their surprise at the news and also gratitude for the support that Wilson gave to them through their careers in San Jose. Sharks captain Logan Couture said: “Definitely going to miss him. Hopefully see him down the road here and talk to him and all that. But, happy that he’s taking steps to, you know, get to where he needs to be and doing what’s best for himself and his family.”