Let us flash back to the 2002-2003 season...

CNNSI.com - Slumping Sharks sack Sutter, assistant coaches - Sunday December 01, 2002 10:43 PM

The San Jose Sharks fired coach Darryl Sutter and assistants Lorne Molleken and Rich Preston on Sunday in a dramatic shakeup of the slumping team. Doug Wilson, the Sharks' director of pro development, and scout Cap Raeder will run the team until a new head coach is hired. [...] The Sharks are off to a terrible 8-12-2-2 start, putting them 13th in the Western Conference [...]. Lombardi agonized over the decision before firing Sutter, a friend and a respected coach who had led the Sharks to five consecutive seasons of improved point totals while helping to transform them from a laughingstock into a Stanley Cup contender. "It's not an easy decision to make when you've had a track record with a person for a long period of time," said Lombardi, who hired Sutter in 1997 to give some respectability to the Sharks. "I don't think you can sum it up as any one thing. That's why these decisions are never easy."

[...] San Jose became a consistent winner in Sutter's tenure, but he couldn't do much this season with an underachieving club that's been one of the NHL's most surprising disappointments. [...] San Jose got off to a slow start while goalie Evgeni Nabokov and defenseman Brad Stuart held out, but their returns haven't helped the Sharks' poor play on both ends. The Sharks have struggled to score, and they've allowed more goals than any Western Conference team except Phoenix. "When we brought Darryl in, he did what we asked him to do," team president and owner Greg Jamison said. "Unfortunately, we determined that a change was necessary. There is still a lot of hockey to be played this season."

[...] [E]ven while Sutter helped the Sharks become a contender, some wondered if he was the right type of coach for a young, speedy team with plenty of offensive talent. Sutter stresses a disciplined, two-way brand of hockey that didn't make much use of star goal-scorer Teemu Selanne last season [...].

SI.com - Sharks fire GM Lombardi after first-to-worst season - Tuesday March 18, 2003 11:43 PM

The San Jose Sharks fired general manager Dean Lombardi on Tuesday, capping their disappointing campaign with a complete overhaul for one of the NHL's most stable organizations. Owner Greg Jamison's surprising move came three weeks before the close of the Sharks' first regular season in six years in which they won't improve their points total from the previous season. [...] Nearly four months after Lombardi fired coach Darryl Sutter and began trading players in an effort to spark the Sharks, Jamison dismissed one of the NHL's most respected young executives in a brief morning meeting. "This team has basically underperformed in a very big way this year," Jamison said. [...[

Lombardi had been a part of the Sharks since their founding season, and he transformed them from an NHL laughingstock to a Stanley Cup contender in the seven years since he was promoted to general manager. All the while, he preached patience in a long-term plan that seemed to be going smoothly until this season. [...] Lombardi signed a four-year contract extension last summer.

[...] Lombardi took over the Sharks' hockey operations late in the 1995-96 season. He hired Sutter and acquired almost every player on the Sharks' current roster, slowly turning the Sharks into an exciting, winning team. But as the Sharks struggled this season, Lombardi fired Sutter and traded Marcus Ragnarsson, Jeff Jillson, Niklas Sundstrom, captain Owen Nolan, Bryan Marchment, Dan McGillis and Matt Bradley. [...] Jamison believed the Sharks' above-average payroll was too much to spend for a non-contending team, and he was thought to be the impetus behind both Sutter's firing and the salary-dumping trades Lombardi made in recent weeks. "We didn't get off to a good start, and we continued to play subpar hockey," Jamison said. " [...]

Lombardi, a Massachusetts native, played at the University of New Haven before earning a law degree from Tulane and briefly working as a player agent. He was an assistant GM with the Minnesota North Stars before joining the Sharks. While Lombardi's player evaluation skills and dealmaking abilities were commended, the Sharks seemed to engage in more annual holdouts with their top players than any other team. Lombardi claimed the holdouts resulted from his attempts to stick close to a tight budget. Last fall, goalie Evgeni Nabokov and defenseman Brad Stuart held out through the start of the regular season, which played a large role in the Sharks' slow start. When San Jose won just one of its first five games, Lombardi abruptly capitulated to Nabokov's salary demands -- but without participating in training camp, Nabokov started slowly and never got into top form this season.