By MELANIE KENTNER
SAN JOSE, Calif.
Since taking over as head coach in 1997, Darryl Sutter has helped
develop the young San Jose Sharks into a Western Conference contender.
This season, Sutter and the Sharks weren't able to produce the success
expected of them and on Sunday, it cost him his job.
With the defending Pacific Division champions off to a disappointing
8-12-2-2 start this season, the Sharks fired Sutter and assistant
coaches Rich Preston and Lorne Molleken.
Sharks' professional scout Cap Raeder will take over as interim head
coach and Doug Wilson, the Sharks' director of pro development, will
"I just think thatgiven where we're at, we're off track now," said
Sharks general manager Dean Lombardi in a conference call. "Hopefully
with the change we'll get back on track."
Sutter, a native of Viking, Alta., was hired as the fifth head coach
in Sharks history in June 1997 and he leaves the team as the all-time
coaching leader in games, wins and winning percentage.
"It's certainly not an easy decision to make when you have such a
track record with one guy," said Lombardi.
In five-plus seasons with the Sharks he posted a 192-182-60
regular-season record and a .512 winning percentage in 434 games. At
the end of last season, Sutter became just the second coach in NHL
history to guide his team to five consecutive seasons of point
improvement in the standings.
Sutter also led the Sharks to a club record five consecutive playoff
But with the Sharks sitting 13th in the Western Conference, Lombardi
is worried the team won't even make the playoffs and felt a major
shakeup was needed.
"We felt strongly that this team should be playing better and was not
performing at a level that we have come to expect," Lombardi said.
He added that the Sharks may have a new coach by the end of the week.
"It's a very short list and we don't expect this to be a very long
process," he said.
Lombardi described Raeder and Wilson as short-term replacements.
Raeder, 48, is a former World Hockey Association goalie and assistant
coach with the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings. He has spent six
years with the Sharks - five as a pro scout and one as an assistant
Wilson, 43, has spent the past five years as director of pro
development after a 16-season NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks
"Those two guys are organization guys who have been with us through
the whole process," said Lombardi. "It's a short term thing, but as
far as hockey people they've been part of the building process for the
past five or six years."
Sutter coached the Chicago Blackhawks for three seasons from 1992-95
and reached the playoffs each year. He also never missed the
post-season during his eight seasons as an NHL player with the Blackhawks.
He earned his 300th NHL coaching victory on Nov. 16 in a 7-3 win at
Florida and has a 302-262-86 record behind the bench in 650 career
games with San Jose and Chicago.
Preston, 50, was in his third season as an assistant coach with the
Sharks. His primary responsibilities included co-ordinating the
special teams and coaching the team's forwards.
The Regina native was also an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames
and Chicago Blackhawks and a right-winger for eight years with the
Blackhawks and the New Jersey Devils.
Molleken, also from Regina, was in his second season as an assistant
Before the Sharks, the 45-year-old coached Edmonton Oilers affiliates
in Cape Breton, N.S., and Hamilton as well as WHL teams in Regina and