What we learned from Sharks GM press conference

Grier: “Myself and my staff will do everything possible to put a team on the ice that you can be proud of.”

After days of speculation amongst insiders and journalists alike, former Sharks winger Mike Grier has officially been named the new general manager of the San Jose Sharks. Such a naming is historic, as he will be the first Black general manager in league history. Yesterday morning, the organization hosted a press conference to re-introduce Grier in his new role.

It’s been clear from the beginning that the search for a new general manager would be extensive in order to find the right candidate for the organization, and Sharks President Jonathan Becher clarified such in his opening remarks.

“We put in something like 200 hours in this exhaustive — you might say sometimes exhausting process. We did our work. While we were intrigued and appreciative of the candidates, especially those who ended up being finalists, Mike separated himself from the pack.”

Becher also explained that although there are many attributes that are crucial to being a proper leader — talent, experience, even desire for the role — the one that held particular importance was “the strength of character to lead, not just in good times, but in difficult ones.” If there wasn’t a clearer sign that the organization wanted someone who could recognize the reality of the situation, yet have the determination to still move forward, this would hit it right on the nose.

“There were lots of candidates, including all of our finalists. There were few who had that leadership quality, the ability to really scout talent, to think about how to formalize player development in a formal, professional way.”

One particular answer from Becher that got some amusement from the audience was the speculation that one of the criteria in the search was to seek out candidates who had a connection to the organization:

“I’ve seen people speculate that being a past Sharks player was one of our criteria. It was not. It is great that Mike knows San Jose … and has connections to the city. It’s a nice add, but it was never a requirement. In fact, some of our finalists did not have that connection with San Jose whatsoever, but they were willing to put down roots here.”

One seldom-mentioned aspect of the search was the incorporation of outside feedback when it came to filtering through a laundry list of candidates.

“During the course of this search, we also had the opportunity to talk to many people around the game of hockey and get their feedback, including several of the Sharks’ distinguished alumni … Our alumni were vocal in their support of [Grier] as GM, citing his leadership qualities, work ethic, and continuous commitment to learning.”

Becher also noted that one of the strongest proponents for Grier was Chris Drury, the current general manager for the New York Rangers. Drury selected Grier for a hockey operations advisor role in 2021.

Along with the announcement of Grier’s hiring came the confirmation that Joe Will would be remaining in his role as assistant general manager. He also delved into the bigger-picture requirements the organization kept in mind when narrowing down the finalists:

“I think part of it was just how many boxes everyone could check. Everyone has their competencies in particular areas, but with Mike, what was so attractive was how long he’s been around this league — he’s been around the NHL for 25 years. He’s been in the trenches of scouting, coaching — pretty much any staff member here, any player, he can look at and say ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done that.’ That was really what set him apart from everyone else: everything he’s done in his career, he’s done it with honesty, integrity, and hard work. He also knows so many people in the game as well, so when it comes to filling out staff or finding backgrounds on people, he’s so well-connected, and that’s a huge advantage.”

Joe Will spoke to the preparation side of Grier’s hiring in particular, especially with the draft looming over the hiring announcement.

“I can tell you that Mike has already dug in with the upcoming draft, free agency window, the upcoming coaching hire, and contractual period.”

In terms of Grier’s hopes for the organization going forward, he was very clear in his aspirations: to bring the franchise back to its prime.

“The San Jose Sharks are a franchise with a history of success, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting this franchise back to its winning ways. To all the Sharks fans worldwide, I want you to know that myself and my staff will do everything possible to put a team on the ice that you can be proud of, and to bring a cup to the Bay Area.”

When asked about his top priorities coming into the position, Grier made it clear that he wants to hit the ground running. “Our scouts have done a good job preparing for the draft. I think Joe’s done an excellent job with both our amateur and pro scouts, and those guys have been busy putting in the work. My job now is to go in there, listen to what they have to say, and maybe make a few suggestions here or there.”

Another vacancy in the organization’s staff is the head coach position, after former head coach Bob Boughner and his staff were relieved of their duties over the weekend. In regards to the coaching search, Grier admitted there wasn’t an ideal timeline for the hire, but that the search would be thorough.

When asked about an ever-evaded rebuild, Grier had a unique perspective on such a touchy topic:

“I think we can improve in every facet, to be honest with you. While there are some pieces of the roster that we like — that we’d like to build around — I don’t think there’s just one spot in particular that needs work. We just need to keep working on the roster and getting better as a team.

“We’re not looking to tear this down like Arizona. Yes, there are some challenges with the salary cap, but I think the majority of the league is dealing with the flat cap. For us, we’re not looking to rebuild, but as Jonathan said at dinner once, ‘there are a lot of R-words you can use.’ There might be a few bumps in the road ahead, and maybe we need to step back a little to go forward.

“The goal is to win here. I’m a competitive person, same as Jonathan, Joe and Hasso. We’re going to try and put the most competitive team we can out on the ice while doing what we think is right by the organization.”

Ultimately, Grier characterized the identity and culture of the team going forward with quite a bit of bold determination:

“[We want to be] tenacious, highly competitive, in your face — a team that’s fast and hard to play against. That’s what you see when you watch the playoffs, that’s what wins in this league, and that’s what we hope to be.

“For me, the idea of culture, it’s not words. To me, it’s about investing in people and surrounding yourself with the right ones — people who are passionate about their job, who love their job, and are selfless, team-first people. That’s what culture means to me, and as general manager, it’s up to me to find those types of players on the ice, and also surround myself with those types of people in our hockey operations department.”