SAN JOSE -- As NHL teams begin to reshape their rosters in the days leading up to the June 27 draft, the Sharks never have been in a more precarious spot during the Doug Wilson era.

The team's general manager has declared the status quo is unacceptable. The fact that the Los Angeles Kings -- the team that ruined the Sharks' postseason by coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to eliminate San Jose -- went on to win the Stanley Cup doesn't change anything. Hockey teams do not think like that.

Wilson's "reset and refresh" of a year ago has evolved into a full rebuild, a word he has deliberately avoided in the past. He also has promised a change in the team's culture -- "We want guys who want to play here, not just live here" -- and leadership hierarchy.

While he has not singled out anyone by name, Wilson also has done nothing to dampen the growing speculation that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are on the trading block -- no-movement clauses in their recently extended contracts notwithstanding.

But most significantly, Wilson candidly has prepared fans for a drop-off in performance by stating that sometimes a team needs to take a step backward in order to take two steps forward.

That drop-off is something the Sharks historically have been reluctant to risk.

The last time San Jose failed to make the playoffs, in 2002-03, there were reportedly 3,000 season-ticket cancellations. Since then, the philosophy has been simple: Finish the season among the handful of teams given a chance to win the Stanley Cup, and at some point it will be San Jose's year.


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Other teams could afford to miss the playoffs for five or six seasons to procure high draft picks, the theory went, but not San Jose.

That approach has kept the SAP Center filled year after year -- especially important for a franchise that feels it came out on the short end of its long-term local TV deal. It also has provided for a decade of highly entertaining hockey.

But the team has yet to reach the Stanley Cup finals, and the magnitude and embarrassment of this year's playoff collapse has prompted the internal calls for change.

By process of elimination, that change is focused on the roster.

Coach Todd McLellan, whose initial statement after the Game 7 loss -- "They fixed their problems, we didn't" -- sounded like both an acknowledgment of personal responsibility as well as the rationale for his dismissal, remains behind the bench.

Wilson, who took over after that 2003 downturn, also received a vote of confidence from owner Hasso Plattner.

All of which brings the discussion back to the players themselves.

The general manager has made it clear that younger, homegrown players such as Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski will get more responsibility on the ice and in the locker room.

"I talked to all my vets about that," Wilson told the Toronto Sun. "If we are in a rebuild, it might not be in their best interest to stay."

Those vets include Thornton and Marleau, of course, and Wilson has already declared that Dan Boyle and Marty Havlat are gone (Boyle was dealt to the New York Islanders). Brad Stuart is another veteran with some control over where he plays, and a good candidate for the same chat.

Wilson likens the player conversations that have taken place over the past six weeks to those a year ago before veterans Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus were traded. Each was persuaded to waive a no-trade clause and ended up on a Stanley Cup contender, while San Jose got a reasonable return.

But this year, things are more fragile. All the talk of change, for example, appears to have driven a wedge between Wilson and the Thornton camp. John Thornton, brother and agent of the Sharks captain, had a quick response on Twitter to the call for a cultural change in San Jose: "A culture established by who again?" asked John Thornton in a less-than-subtle reference to Wilson.

The general manager has indicated that the presence of talented young players such as Tomas Hertl or 2013 first-round draft pick Mirco Mueller enabled him to commit to a rebuilding process that should not take as long as it otherwise might. And Wilson, who will meet with the media Tuesday for his annual pre-draft update, said he is determined to get value in return for any future trade -- or simply wait until the right deal is available.

Already holding seven picks in the 2014 draft, the Sharks do not appear interested in stockpiling more, so there might not be the pressure for a major trade before the end of the month. Still, don't rule out anything.

"Decisions will be made going forward when the time is right," Wilson said. "If the time is tomorrow, it's tomorrow. There is no deadline on it."

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