SAN JOSE (AP) — San Jose general manager Doug Wilson was so impressed by Peter DeBoer when he interviewed in 2008 that he moved to the top of the list when the Sharks had to search for a new head coach.
The experience DeBoer gained in those intervening years coaching Florida and New Jersey only made Wilson more certain of his decision to hire DeBoer to replace Todd McLellan.
The Sharks officially announced Thursday that DeBoer will be the franchise’s eighth head coach, seven years after DeBoer was a finalist for the job the last time it was open.
“I would just say his interview and what he’s added to himself in the last seven years is really impressive,” Wilson said.
“You do learn through good experiences, bad experiences. To me, a really bright guy who has taken every experience and added an additional layer to it.”
DeBoer’s teams did not have great success, making the playoffs one time in six full seasons. He was fired midway through his fourth year in New Jersey back in December and said he was eager to get another opportunity to show that he was not the problem.
DeBoer takes over a team that missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and finished 12th in the 14-team Western Conference with 89 points. He compares the situation in San Jose to the one he inherited in New Jersey in 2011. The Devils had just had their 13-year playoff run snapped before DeBoer led them to the Stanley Cup finals in his first season where they lost to Los Angeles in six games.
“There’s a lot of similarities,” he said. “What I found with the group in New Jersey that I see here, is I see a group of veteran guys and young players that have hit a little bit of a rut here. I think their true character is going to be tested. I see enough character in that room, that I see a big bounce-back year.”
The decision to hire DeBoer ended a lengthy search that started April 20 when the team and McLellan announced that he would not be back for an eighth season in San Jose. The departure was announced as a mutual agreement and McLellan was later hired as head coach in Edmonton.
Wilson interviewed about a dozen candidates before choosing DeBoer. Sharks director of player development Larry Robinson gave a strong recommendation for DeBoer. Robinson served on his staff in New Jersey in the 2011-12 season.
“Peter was really going to be one of the standards to me for the other candidates,” Wilson said. “They all did a great job, but it ended up at a place that does not surprise me with Peter being our head coach.”
DeBoer has a few ties to the Sharks players. He coached Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau on a Canadian junior team almost two decades ago and has twice coached defenseman Brent Burns on Team Canada, including earlier this month at the world championships.
DeBoer was an assistant to McLellan on that team, helping Canada win the title. He said he purposely didn’t ask McLellan too many questions about the Sharks so he would be able to take over the job with an open mind.
“It was like not opening a box on Christmas,” he said. “You want to ask as many questions as you can, but you force yourself not to because I didn’t want to go in with preconceived notions of this group.”
San Jose is trying to transition from a team led by Thornton and Marleau to one built around players like Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Marc Edouard-Vlasic.
DeBoer’s main task will be to develop a young core to support those players in their primes. The Sharks played many young players the past season with mixed results.
“The expectation is to win right now, regardless of the ages or birth certificates of the players,” DeBoer said. “There’s a tradition here of winning and challenging to go deep into the playoffs. That’s my expectation. I think that’s Doug’s expectation. I don’t think anyone is looking for anything less than that here.”