Here we go with part 2 of our look back at our favorite hockey team. This time we’re gonna focus on the big shot-callers, the dudes that are in charge of hiring and firing, the General Managers (GMs).
This is a high pressure job, one where the fans will be getting on your back for anything and everything that has gone wrong with your team. I’ll bring up some possible examples: Your first round pick can’t deke his way out of a brown paper bag? GM’s fault for drafting him. Head coach screams until he is blue in the face and still the team ignores him? GM’s fault for keeping the coach around too long. Star player is holding out for a better contract? GM’s fault for not being a better negotiator. Team chokes in the final minutes of games? GM’s fault for putting together a losing product. You get the idea.
Let’s now take a look at the men who called the shots for the Sharks franchise over the years:
1) The original shot-caller: Jack Ferreira (1991-92)
Born June 6, 1944 in Providence, R.I. Before being the main man for the Sharks, Ferreira was a Scout for the Calgary Flames (1980-86) and the Director of Player Development for the NY Rangers (1986-88). Ferreira’s first crack at the GM job came in 1988 with the Minnesota North Stars. He stayed with the North Stars until 1990 when he was given the reigns to manage the brand new San Jose Sharks. In San Jose he held the roles of Vice President and GM, and he was the man in charge for the franchise’s first ever draft pick: Pat Falloon. He was also involved in the trade that brought veteran and star defenceman Doug Wilson (current Sharks GM) to the Sharks organization. No doubt it must have been a challenge to run a brand new NHL franchise.
2) Getting the Sharks on track: Chuck Grillo (1992-96)
Grillo started his NHL management career in the 1980s as a Scout for the Minnesota North Stars and eventually held the title of Director of Player Personnel. He started his stint with the Sharks in 1991 as the Vice President of Player Personnel. He then took over the show as the main shot-caller in 1992. He was basically the human “database” for the Sharks organization when it came to news on current and possible Sharks players. During his entire time with the Sharks he was supervising the scouting, drafting, and trades for the franchise. His helped to land important players like Ulf Dahlen and Owen Nolan. Also under his watch the Sharks began to become a legitimate NHL team by making the playoffs in 1994 and that year upsetting the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs.
3) Building on a solid foundation: Dean Lombardi (1996-2003)
Born March 5, 1958 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Before coming to the Sharks organization, Lombardi was an Assistant GM with the Minnesota North Stars for two seasons. He came to the Sharks in 1990 and started his tenure as Assistant GM. In 1992 he was promoted to Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations. Lombardi took over the show in 1996 as the main GM. The Sharks made the playoffs 5 straight years from 1997-2002 and cracked the 100 point barrier for the first time in franchise history. He was in charge when Patrick Marleau was drafted in 1997. He has earned the reputation for being a strategic General Manager and building his teams through the NHL Draft. He is currently the GM for the Los Angeles Kings.
4) The Sharks’ current and tough-as-nails GM: Doug Wilson (2003-Present)
Born July 5, 1957 in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a former standout NHL defenceman that played over 1000 games in the league. The former Norris Trophy (best defenceman) winner is an original San Jose Shark and the franchise’s first ever captain. After retiring from NHL play in 1993 Wilson would spend time in a player realations role for the NHLPA until 1997. After that Wilson made his return to the Sharks franchise in the role of Director of Pro Development, where his responsibilities included being a consultant for all hockey decisions (e.g., contract negotiations). He held this role until he was promoted to GM in 2003.
Under Wilson’s watch the team has had tremendous success. They have captured 4 Pacific Division championships, a Presidents’ Trophy title, and back-to-back Western Conference Finals appearances. He also pulled the trigger on one of the biggest trades in franchise history in 2005 when he acquired Jumbo Joe Thornton from the Boston Bruins. Wilson also made the tough decision to not resign longtime star goalie Evgeni Nabokov during the 2010 offseason and instead signed the 2010 Stanley Cup winning goaltender Antti Niemi.
Wilson has shown the ability to draft strongly, negotiate contracts smartly, and trade wisely. He is not afraid to make the tough decisions, and that’s what makes him one of the premier GMs in the NHL. The sky is the limit with Wilson and the Sharks.
Wilson has also been busy this 2011 offseason, but that will be discussed in a future Sharks History article on Big Trades.
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