It was a 12-word mini-manifesto, offered in a staccato bite for maximum impact.

"I want players that want to play here," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told me, "not just live here."

That was pretty much all Wilson chose to say in our phone conversation last week, and really, it was all Wilson had to communicate.

When he said the words, I actually stopped and asked if he meant to say what I think he just said.

So Wilson repeated: "I want players that want to play here, not just live here."

OK then. That's a very different tone from what we've heard from Wilson after past Sharks playoff disappointments, and this time he definitely meant it to be different.

Yes, it could be a game-changer -- or a franchise-changer -- if Wilson plans to shake up his roster by rooting out some of the Sharks' more placid personalities and changing the cozy culture of the locker room.

And I believe that's exactly the point Wilson was making, briefly and acidly, in the continuing aftermath of the Sharks' first-round loss to the Kings despite taking a 3-0 series lead.

It wasn't necessarily a message just to me or to Sharks fans or NHL executives; it was directed at Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and several other established players who might be edging out of Wilson's future plans.

Thornton and Marleau both have no-trade clauses, and have never expressed a desire to leave San Jose.


Advertisement

But if we take Wilson's 12 words at face value, you can sense that he is willing to let his players know that they might not love playing in San Jose as much into the future.

There might be more pressure. They might be more demands.

I think there's a special Wilson focus on Thornton, who almost assuredly won't be the captain next season, who would have to accept a reduced role on the ice, and who therefore might be amenable to a trade once he realizes that his status on the team has changed so dramatically.

The Sharks are about to head into a rebuilding stage -- maybe they sort of already started it two seasons ago by trading Ryane Clowe and a few others.

Over the next few weeks, Wilson might or might not literally say the word "rebuilding" as he goes about turning the team over to Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and others.

It's a sensitive word for owners, fans, coaches and players ... and G.M.s, no doubt.

The Sharks have barely survived financially during their 10-season playoff streak, so what happens to the season-ticket base if they miss a postseason or two during an official rebuild?

But it's clear that the Sharks have to take a different route, which could lead to the kinds of swift moves that this franchise hasn't seen in a generation of two.

That was Wilson's point, and that is his focus right now.

This exchange with Wilson came on the heels of a recent Sharks manifesto of my own -- much, much longer than 12 words -- in which I drew a connection between the team's perennial playoff disappointments and the organization's focus on keeping its star players happy and sheltered.

My theme: Under Wilson, the Sharks have done everything to make San Jose an undemanding place to live and play, which has attracted top players who seek comfort first and foremost.

That all works wonderfully ... until the playoffs, when tougher-minded teams started walloping the Sharks, who didn't have the fortitude to start firing back.

When we spoke, Wilson pointedly did not chide me or argue with me.

Notably, Wilson also has been making somewhat similar points about his team in recent weeks as the Sharks organization examined and endured yet another playoff loss.

During a recent appearance on CSN Bay Area, Wilson repeated that no current players have any "equity" on the team.

Then he said what he said to me and added that he'd be saying similar things in the coming days.

The Sharks, of course, have had a lot of disappointing endings to a lot of seasons filled with high expectations. But this time, the mood is markedly different.

This time, Wilson isn't talking about keeping the status quo in any way, shape or platitude.

Instead, he said what he said, 12 words that might as well be put on a banner and tacked up outside of SAP Center these days.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

More NHL
OT win puts Kings in Stanley Cup finals against Rangers. PAGE 3