The 64-year-old, who had been on medical leave since Nov. 26, had been GM since May 13, 2003.
“I want to thank everyone who has reached out during my leave of absence,” Wilson said. “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.”
Sharks owner Hasso Plattner said assistant GM Joe Will, who has served as GM during Wilson’s medical leave, will continue in that role while the team conducts a search among external candidates. The search committee will include Plattner, Will and Sharks president Jonathan Becher.
“I want to personally thank Doug for his 19 seasons as general manager of the San Jose Sharks,” Plattner said. “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.”
Becher said the Sharks would like to have a new GM in place for the start of next season. In the meantime, Becher expressed faith in Will to conduct the Sharks’ end-of-season review of coach Bob Boughner, his staff and the players, and, if necessary, preparations for the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal on July 7-8 and the start of free agency on July 13.
“We don’t have a defined timeline, that is we care more about the person than exactly when it happens,” Becher said. “If it works out it takes a small number of months, that’s great. If it takes a bit longer than that, we’ll wait for the right person as opposed to say that person has to show up in a particular time.”
Becher said the plan until recently was for Wilson to return as GM when he was healthy.
“Doug has definitely improved over the last couple of months, but he made the decision that he needs to concentrate on his health full time,” Becher said. “So it’s really only in the last couple days – this is late breaking more than anything else – it’s become clear that it’s his decision for him to step down.”
The Sharks intend to interview candidates such as former NHL GMs, assistant GMs, player agents, League personnel and those working in international hockey. However, Will said San Jose intends to continue the plan Wilson started.
“Our foot is on the gas here. Our intention is to win,” Will said. “We’re a competitive team, we have the guys in the room to do it and we’re pushing forward, not to take any steps back and say it’s a whatever year plan or whatever. No, it’s to go and win and that’s what we intend on doing with the candidates who come forward is we will look at them based on that, how they come into the organization. They’re going to have a vision. They’re going to have a lot of great things to offer within there. But it’s moving forward with this philosophy to win hockey games, get to the playoffs and take this franchise to the next level.”
Becher said the focus is on external candidates because San Jose wants a fresh perspective.
“We’ve all been doing this for a long time, and we’ve been doing it in a very successful way, but it’s good to learn from how others have done it as well,” Becher said. “So if that external process tells us we’ve got the right internal, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Becher left open the possibility of Wilson returning to work for the Sharks in some capacity when he is healthy but said they have yet to discuss what that role would be. Becher also said the Sharks would like to honor Wilson for his many contributions from him at a future date, likely next season.
The Sharks went 760-468-151 with 12 ties during Wilson’s tenure as GM. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins (768) and Boston Bruins (762) had more wins in that span. The Sharks won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL team with the best regular-season record in 2008-09, and finished first in the Pacific Division five times (2003-04, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010 -eleven).
San Jose qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 14 times under Wilson, reached the Western Conference Final five times (2004, 2010, 2011, 2016, 2019) and advanced to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Penguins in six games. This season, the Sharks (29-31-9) are 16 points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild card from the West and will likely miss the playoffs for the third straight season.
Wilson, who had been the second-longest tenured GM in the NHL, behind David Poile of the Nashville Predators (July 9, 1997), had 827 points (237 goals, 590 assists) in 1,024 regular-season games during 16 NHL seasons as a defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Sharks from 1977-93. After being traded by the Blackhawks to the Sharks prior to their inaugural season in 1991-92, Wilson served as their first captain before retiring following the 1992-93 season.
Wilson was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2020, with the induction ceremony taking place Nov. 15, 2021, after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“These past 19 years serving as general manager of the San Jose Sharks have been a privilege and one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable periods of my life,” Wilson said Thursday. “I have been incredibly fortunate to work for and with some of the most talented and passionate people in the game of hockey. I want to thank Hasso Plattner, along with our previous ownership groups, for the incredible opportunity and the trust they placed in myself.” and our staff.
“I want to also thank all of the coaches, players, scouts, trainers and members of the hockey department that I have worked with over these many years for their dedication and commitment to our organization.”