The Firing of Pete DeBoer: Who comes out ahead?
How Doug Wilson both won and lost at the same time after firing his head coach.
We’re two games into the post-Pete DeBoer era of the San Jose Sharks and new bench boss Bob Boughner has a split 1-1-0 record under his belt. Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but here’s a first impression of who wins and who loses after this ousting.
The Sharks were/are floundering and someone had to go. So Wilson sacrificed DeBoer along with assistant coaches Dave Barr, Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg. With the Sharks out of playoff contention at this time and without a first round draft pick in 2020, this season, simply put, cannot be sacrificed, so someone’s job was. Wilson fired a majority of the coaching staff and in doing so, protected his own job.
It’s pretty obvious that Boughner was a winner in all this. He now has another shot at coaching at the NHL level, after two seasons with the Florida Panthers. Plus, most experts know there’s more amiss with this team than just coaching — meaning if Boughner fails, it will be tough to pin the issues with the team on him.
Mike Ricci & Evgeni Nabokov
Breaking into the ranks of NHL coaching is tough and the key is to get a foot in the door. Both Ricci and Nabokov have patiently been waiting in the wings and now they will get their shots.
If Ricci and Nabokov are looking to find a job behind the bench (or in Nabby’s case, up in the rafters) this is their chance. Knowing these guys, they’ll succeed even if the team fails, so this coaching change is a big plus for them.
The Young Sharks
Adding long-time Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer along with the aforementioned Ricci and Nabokov to the Sharks coaching staff immediately gives the Sharks’ prospects a better shot at cracking the roster. All three have worked extensively with the players on the San Jose Barracuda and know what the young players have to offer.
It became pretty apparent in Thursday’s game, when the Sharks called up Joachim Blichfeld and immediately inserted him into the line up. Sharks fans have long been critical of DeBoer’s reliance on older veterans (read: Melker Karlsson) without allowing younger ones the best chance to succeed, often only playing them limited minutes in a fourth-line role. It will be interesting to see if there are more call ups from the AHL as the season progresses.
Martin Jones & Aaron Dell
At the start of the 2018-2019 season, it looked like Martin Jones and Aaron Dell would be a goaltending tandem that would be considered one of the Sharks’ biggest strengths. Jones ended the 2017-18 season with a save percentage above .900 and Dell was right there with him. Then the goalie pads shrank because of NHL rule changes and both Jones and Dell struggled.
With Nabokov as the new goaltending coach, the duo have the chance at a renaissance. There’s a new voice working with them and it will be interesting to see how Jones and Dell respond. This is their chance to prove that they both still have what it takes to play in the NHL.
Let’s start out with the obvious: DeBoer is now out of a coaching job and has to figure out what’s next. Getting fired is never a good feeling, even if you’re just the scapegoat to cover up other immense issues. That alone makes DeBoer a loser in this deal.
However, I think it goes deeper than that. DeBoer has had instant success with two teams — the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks — taking them both to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year as head coach. The trouble is, things fell off after that and DeBoer was never able to win a Cup with the talented teams, or even return to the final.
He is a great coach and will get another head coaching job, but it may take a while. There appears to be a pattern developing with DeBoer and his coaching style and that may make teams wary.
Wilson may have saved his job, but he also used his one get out of jail free card. If the Sharks don’t make the playoffs in April, it could be Wilson who loses his job next. You cannot trade away the team’s first round draft pick two years running and then miss the playoffs the next season.
It’s nice to think that firing DeBoer and the rest of the coaching staff will turn the team around and make Sharks fans feel better, but the truth is that the coaches were the one thing that could change aside from Wilson losing his job. There are serious fundamental issues that I think go beyond what’s being asked of players by the coaching staff.
According to Evolving Hockey, the Sharks are 30th in the league when it comes to 5-on-5 goals for, ahead of just the Detroit Red Wings. They’re last in the league in 5-on-5 goals against per 60 minutes. Some of this can change with coaching, but the team lost two forwards (Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi) who handle and possess the puck well. The young players have done virtually nothing to this point to make up for that loss.
Plus, changing the coaches doesn’t begin to change the goaltending issues that the Sharks have experienced for nearly a season and a half now. San Jose has issues that go beyond coaching. Changing the coaching staff may make Sharks fans feel better in the short-term, but if other issues aren’t dealt with, Sharks fans will go back to feeling bad soon enough.