Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Last year, the San Jose Sharks lost in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, and disappointment in that result wound up costing Ron Wilson his job as the team's head coach.
Todd McLellan came in this year as a rookie NHL head coach and did a terrific job in the regular season, leading the Sharks to the No. 1 seed in the West as well as the franchise's first-ever Presidents' Trophy.
Despite the historic campaign, which also featured franchise records in wins (53) and points (117), San Jose suffered an even bigger letdown in this year's postseason, as it was bounced out in the opening round in six games by eighth- seeded Anaheim.
Now, that isn't to say that the Sharks should now fire McLellan, who at 41 years of age seems to have a very bright coaching future ahead of him. However, in light of another postseason collapse, San Jose does need to take serious stock of where its organization is headed at this stage.
With McLellan safe for the time being, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson -- no relation to the previously fired Ron -- is now the man on the hot seat.
Since he took over GM duties back in May of 2003, the Sharks have made the postseason every year and eclipsed the 100-point mark in four out of Wilson's five seasons. However, outside of a trip to the conference finals in Wilson's first playoff year in 2004, San Jose has suffered three straight second-round exits followed by this year's ultimate postseason fizzle.
It's safe to say that Wilson has helped build a very good hockey team, but one that just doesn't seem to be made for the playoffs. San Jose did make more changes to its roster than usual this past offseason, but there was still something missing from the core of the team.
San Jose's front office has given Wilson a vote of confidence as Sharks President Greg Jamison stated Tuesday that the club will stick with the GM for the time being. That means Wilson will once again be tasked with trying to re- configure the Sharks for postseason success, although it would seem that he's already had enough cracks at that job.
The problem is trying to predict when a GM has reached the end of his tenure with any given team. Coaches in the NHL are discarded at the first of sign of trouble, but general managers are often allowed to fail for years before being given the pink slip. That's due in large part to the upheaval that goes along with hiring a new GM, as general managers often want to fill a new organization with scouts, coach and staff members with whom they are familiar.
But, the loyal fan base in San Jose deserves a change after this latest playoff embarrassment. Expectations grow during the club's superb regular seasons, only to end in heartbreak every spring.
The Sharks have plenty of talent on their current roster, but they need a new set of eyes to determine who should stay and who should go. Doug Wilson no longer appears to be the best man for that job, it's just taking San Jose's brass a long time to face that fact.
CAPS AND 'CANES IN SEVENTH HEAVEN
The second round of the NHL playoffs were set on Tuesday night, but not until after a pair of Game 7s were decided. In the end, Carolina and Washington punched their tickets to the Eastern Conference semifinals with victories in their respective decisive games.
First, the Capitals played a tight game against the visiting New York Rangers, but Washington was able to survive and advance thanks to Sergei Fedorov's game-winning goal with just under five minutes remaining in the third period.
When the Capitals had officially posted a 2-1 decision over the Rangers, it appeared as though the Hurricanes were on their way to a 3-2 road loss to the New Jersey Devils in their Game 7. However, Carolina scored two goals in the final 80 seconds of the contest to secure a trip to the conference semis.
The late goals by Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal not only reversed the fortunes of New Jersey and Carolina, but also helped alter greatly East's the second- round playoff matchups.
If the Devils had been able to hold on for the win, they would've faced Washington in the second round and top-seeded Boston would have drew Pittsburgh in the conference semis. Instead, Carolina's comeback meant that the 'Canes will take on the Bruins, while the Penguins and Capitals will battle in the conference's other semifinal matchup.
The series between the Caps and Pens will be one of the most anticipated conference semifinals matchup in quite some time, as Pittsburgh's dynamic duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin take on Alex Ovechkin's Washington club.
Since Crosby and Ovechkin entered the NHL as rookies for the 2005-06 campaign the players' abilities have been compared and contrasted ad nauseam. The first playoff series between the NHL's two biggest stars is a historic event and should be the first of many postseason clashes between the Penguins and Caps in the coming years.
Appropriately, the Caps and Pens series will begin on Saturday afternoon with NBC carrying the broadcast nationally in the United States. It will be interesting to see what the television ratings for this matchup will be like in the U.S., especially if the series goes six or seven games.
Vancouver and Chicago will get the second round underway with Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal clash scheduled for Thursday. The other Western battle between Detroit and Anaheim will begin on Friday, as will the series between Carolina and Boston.