Today's press conference to announce the Sharks' lease extension with SAP Center also represented Hasso Plattner's first media availability in the Bay Area since he assumed control of the team's ownership group back in January 2013. A lot has gone on since then, particularly over the past 12 months, and Plattner offered a wide variety of comments on the state of the Sharks franchise. David Pollak transcribed the entirety of Plattner's availability over at Working The Corners, but here are some of the highlights.
On keeping Doug Wilson and committing to the "rebuild"
"Doug was not on the ice when we didn’t make it, when we didn’t win one in eight home games…
"I think this is over-reaction by the fans. I understand that – I was upset, but then you have to calm down and probably analyze what it is. We got injuries. Others got injuries as well. Did we get sloppy? I don’t know. Did we didn’t push hard enough [sic]? I don’t know. That all could be. It is difficult with sports teams.
"The pivotal point was probably the loss in the stadium game. It was probably also emotional. I don’t know. But, when it’s such a big event and everything was focusing on the event, and then you don’t shine. You lose. It was tight, but we lost. After that, I think we got a little bit deflated.
"We are in this rebuild process. Reset, rebuild. There’s no question. Everybody knows when you look at our players, two top stars are getting older. They are both fit. That’s the good news. They haven’t had any major injury like other players. We hope that they can continue to play at that level, or even beef it up a little bit and lead the young ones we have put in to become a strong team."
First of all, playing the "fans are overreacting" card is a bit rich when defending the record of a GM who decided he needed to rebuild a 111-point team because they lost a game. Focusing on specific game results and disappointing stretches of the season also largely misses the point. The decision to keep or fire Wilson should be based on the overall trajectory of the team going forward and the personnel moves Wilson makes (or fails to make) to ensure the team is competitive at some specific point in time. Plattner seems to buy in to Wilson's rebuild plan panning out. The 2014-15 team though, constructed by Wilson, simply wasn't good enough to make the playoffs, regardless of which loss you want to point to as the back-breaker.
On finding a new coach
"It will take some time because you have to do the interviews and you have to go through the process. You have to have a short list. So you have to ask Doug this, what the timetable is. But he will probably tell you it will take some time. We don’t do it this week and not because somebody in another club said we have already a coach. We have to do this carefully. We did this carefully with Todd and the team and that was very successful, how the selection process went there. I think Doug wants to repeat that."
Plattner was also upfront in saying salary will definitely be a prohibitive issue when deciding on a coach. It's safe to say Mike Babcock won't be coming to San Jose:
"Cost in general is an issue. We had a very, very bad year in the year of the lockout. There is a limit for losses. This is still a business. This is not a hobby. When it turns into a hobby, that’s not good. I think that is not good because it has tax implications, severe tax implications. So we have to have a healthy enterprise here. We have done a good job restructuring some internal procedures and processes, so cost is an issue."
On trading for Evgeni Malkin
"We were sitting this morning together and we went through the list of unrestricted (free agents) and restricted ones and who could fit. This is not easy," Plattner said. "We cannot buy the Stanley Cup. The rules are so sophisticated in the NHL — how to acquire somebody, what you have to give if you want to get (Evgeni) Malkin for example."
He caught himself — "Just for an example," he laughed — and later tried to add even more distance to avoid any tampering charges by the Pittsburgh Penguins, pointing out Malkin is not a free agent in July and therefore a safe name to use. Hmm.
This could be nothing or it could be the juiciest part of the press conference by far. Penguins ownership has already come out and said they won't be trading Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. You'd think Plattner wouldn't be careless enough to let it slip that Malkin actually has been made available if that were truly the case but it seems odd to use him, the subject of trade rumors after another early playoff exit in Pittsburgh, as an example of one of the hundreds of players who won't be free agents this summer.
On the Thornton-Wilson feud
"I think yes. I’m not commenting on who made the bigger mistake, but I think they both realized it and settled it as hockey players. I can tell you or what I know from both that it’s over."
"Settled it as hockey players"? I look forward to the video of that meeting surfacing on Hockey Fights.
On rumors about moving the team
"I’m not commenting from those because I get the rumors actually from your writing. So that would be the rumor is biting itself in the butt...."There was the change in governance with the mayor, got elected. And we started the negotiation relatively early because we had never the idea to leave here except if we don’t come to an agreement."
On being an absentee owner
"And don’t write again that I’m never here. I spend one-third of the year here, a little bit up, a little bit down."
Personally I don't think it really matters where Plattner spends his time but "What do you mean I'm not here enough? I spend every offseason in San Jose!" doesn't seem like the most compelling defense. Something along the lines of "it's 2015, the internet exists and I can fulfill my obligations to the team remotely" would have probably been a better response to a pretty valid criticism.