San Jose Sharks: Peter DeBoer was not to blame for the team’s struggles

San Jose Sharks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
San Jose Sharks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Peter DeBoer was relieved of his head-coaching duties by the San Jose Sharks after the team struggled through their first 33 games of the 2019-20 season. But was DeBoer really to blame?

The San Jose Sharks started this season off with high expectations after making a deep playoff run last season. These expectations weren’t even close to being met, as the Sharks started the season going 15-16-2.

With such a poor start, Sharks’ management decided to relieve head coach Peter DeBoer of his duties. However, the Sharks continued to struggle under interim head coach Bob Boughner, going 14-20-3 through their next 37 games.

It’s clear that DeBoer, a proven winner, was not to blame for the Sharks’ struggles this season.

Over 13 seasons of being a head coach in the NHL, DeBoer has been the bench boss of four different teams, coached in 877 games, has a career record of 430-334-113. He has a winning record with every team, but the Florida Panthers

All of DeBoer’s teams have made the playoffs under his tutelage, except Florida. DeBoer has been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, 2011-12 with the New Jersey Devils and 2015-16 with the San Jose Sharks. DeBoer has coached 84 total playoff games, having an overall record of 46-38.

With the Sharks, DeBoer spent the better part of five seasons coaching them. In those five seasons, DeBoer coached 361 games, had a record of 198-129-34, and had a point percentage of 59.6.

Over half of his playoff games were with the Sharks. In 60 playoff games with the Sharks, they went 32-28. Under DeBoer, the Sharks made the playoffs for four straight years.

With the Sharks amount of success under DeBoer and their continued struggles after he was relieved, is he really to blame? I believe there’s a much bigger issue other than just the coaching staff with this team.

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The Bigger Issue

I think the bigger issue with the Sharks is their general manager, Doug Wilson. Over the past couple of seasons, Wilson has made several questionable moves in an attempt to win the Stanley Cup sooner rather than later.

However, with these transactions, Wilson has damaged the current and future Sharks.

One of the first moves I can think of is the acquisition of winger Evander Kane via trade with the Buffalo Sabres in February of 2018. The Sharks sent over a package to the Sabres that included a 2019 conditional first-round pick, 2019 conditional fourth-round pick, and forward Danny O’Regan.

Because the Sharks extended Kane and also made the playoffs that season, Buffalo received the 2019 first-round pick. With this trade, the weak farm system of the Sharks could not be strengthened with the likes of a first-round selection.

Another questionable move that I can think of that Wilson made was trading for defenseman Erik Karlsson in September of 2018.

To acquire Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators, San Jose sent over a package of multiple conditional picks — including a 2019 second, 2020 first, and 2021 second — and current NHL players and prospects including forward Chris Tierney, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, forward Rudolfs Balcers, and forward Josh Norris.

Ottawa ended up receiving all three picks as the Sharks made the playoffs that year and then also extended Karlsson.

With these two trades, the Sharks lost several early draft picks, prospects, and NHL player depth. San Jose didn’t need to trade for Karlsson as they already have a very similar-style defenseman in Brent Burns.

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Since making this trade, the Sharks’ defense has struggled. This is probably because they now have two defensemen that struggle with their defensive game in Burns and Karlsson and moved on from young, solid defenseman DeMelo.

This trade also thinned their center depth by moving Tierney. Wilson has yet to find a suitable replacement for the young center and by extending Karlsson to an eight-year deal with a yearly cap hit of $11.5 million with a no-movement clause every year, this hole didn’t get any easier to fill.

With this extension, the Sharks have $26.5 million locked up in just three defensemen (Karlsson: $11.5 million, Burns: $8 million, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic: $7 million).

To make matters worse, these contracts are all hard to move, with all of them having some sort of no-movement/trade clauses and Burns and Vlasic both being at least 33-years-old.

Because of Karlsson’s extension. the Sharks were unable to re-sign center and former captain Joe Pavelski, once again weakening their center depth. This has also lead to the Sharks being unable to fill several holes, such as a capable back up/platoon for goalie Martin Jones and center depth.

If you ask me, this season’s struggles of the Sharks were clearly not the result of the coaching of former head coach Peter DeBoer but rather of the moves made by current general manager Doug Wilson.

His moves and lack of moves from trying to win a Stanley Cup sooner rather than later have caused the organization to lack top prospects and draft capital while also having several issues with their cap space causing an inability to sign players to fill holes.

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Because of this, the San Jose Sharks will continue to struggle for the foreseeable future.