The message and the San Jose Sharks
All good billionaires have a good public relations staff -- why haven't the Sharks' PR team been more active in beautifying and clarifying the Sharks message?
When a team makes a decision there are repercussions -- not news to anyone who has followed sports for any reasonable amount of time. Whether the decision is on-rink related (TRADE JOE THORNTON) or off-rink (ICE GIRL TIME) you're sending a message to your fan base. In a billion-dollar industry, is this message considered and shaped enough?
Every team in the NHL has a public relations professional on staff - someone whose job it is to control and shape the message coming out of the team. It's safe to say that, by and large, these people do not have much control over the message being delivered by their employers. No one asks the public relations office how they feel about an impending player trade; they're handed the news and told to make it look good. Obviously. What about something less straight-forward?
When Doug Wilson gives interviews and says things like "we're a tomorrow team," well... there's a pretty obvious message being sent to the fanbase there. This is a different message than what was sent after the Sharks humiliating defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues in 2012 - retool was the word then. Rebuild is the word now. Okay, so if the Sharks are entering a rebuild that's the message going forward. Everyone should be on the same page here and the hockey decisions should back up the quotes coming from the man, you know, making the hockey decisions.
Soooooo, what gives? The hockey moves the Sharks have made in the 2014 off-season have not been future-focused, but they have been not-present focused. To put it another way, playing to not-win in 2014 =/= playing to win in 2016.
The Sharks are in some esteemed company right there. Hell, let's throw the Canucks in there, too. Just pretend they're there. Nice.
Of course it doesn't really matter if the facts line up with the message if the Sharks believe they're actually rebuilding right now. If Wilson is in fact under the delusion that signing John Scott, and re-signing Scott Hannan and Mike Brown (players that will cost young players roster spots, by the way!) is how you rebuild, well...okay then. In fairness, the guy has never done this before, so maybe he's going off of some rebuild plan he found on HFBoards or something. He's out of his element here!
I...don't think that is the case. What seems much more likely is that Wilson dropped rebuild on us to suggest to Thornton and Patrick Marleau that, hey, they're actually trying to win games in other places - you should go play there! They (it appears) did not bite on that fake and now Wilson has made enough moves to make the idea of a true rebuild a bit laughable.
In order for the Sharks to maintain a strong organizational message they need to first firmly establish one. They haven't done that yet. They're rebuilding...except not really because they still want you to buy season tickets. They want a culture change...but they can't trade the clubhouse cancers. They want to give the young guys some playing time...so they signed Brown, a guy who will almost certainly take away playing time from inexperience players.
Some have suggested the ice girls announcement did its job by distracting fans from the on-ice confusion. I don't buy that the announcement was deliberately to cover up (get it) the front office's peculiar signings, particularly because creating a shit-storm to cover up a slightly-smaller-shit-storm is not a great PR tactic. If the Sharks have a cohesive organizational plan, they've done a poor job of sharing it with their fanbase. In a world where the Toronto Maple Leafs are making good signings, it might be best for the Sharks to figure out what their plan is and then cluing in their paying customers to the deal.