SAN JOSE –- It wasn’t a poor season, by any means, for Sharks’ Logan Couture in 2013-14.
The 25-year-old managed to eclipse the 20-goal mark again, as he’s done for the fourth straight year, and had 54 points (23g, 21a) in 65 games along with a +21 rating while competing against tough opposition.
Still, there were some notable moments of frustration.
Couture incurred a wrist injury in December, and had just two goals over a 20-game stretch as he tried to play through. The result was missing out on the Canadian Olympic team after looking like a lock to make the eventual Gold Medal-winning roster at the start of the season.
It was a devastating blow.
He eventually had surgery on the wrist and missed 16 games leading up to the Olympic break, returned in late February and played well down the stretch, but then a fight at the end of Game 6 with the Kings’ Mike Richards resulted in another hand injury that required more surgery and a cast up to his elbow for two months this summer.
Couture has turned the page, according to his coach.
“It piled on, but I don’t think he is carrying that baggage with him at all at this point. I haven’t sensed it,” Todd McLellan said. “He hasn’t expressed to me at all that that’s the case. We look at a pretty refreshed young man that’s ready to play.”
Couture admitted it was a roller-coaster year for him personally.
“Up and down,” he said. “I think for the most part I went through a stretch where I didn’t score for awhile, but I still think I was doing things to help the team. I thought it was a good year, not a great year. Hopefully, [I’ll] improve this year.”
Along with Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, it’s clear that the Sharks are painting Couture as the one of the future faces of the franchise.
It’s a good choice, as he has developed into one of the better two-way forwards in the NHL. Couture was tied for seventh in the NHL among forwards in blocked shots last season with 68, reflecting his commitment to playing in the defensive zone, and his 107 goals over the last four seasons is tied for 10th in the league over that span.
Couture will start this year with Patrick Marleau to his left and Matt Nieto to his right, on a line that will be counted on to skate against the oppositions toughest players. It's a role he got accustomed to last season.
That’s no small task in the Pacific Division, which features imposing centers like Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter in Los Angeles, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler with the Ducks, and Henrik Sedin in Vancouver.
“Last year was really the first year where I was playing against the first line every night, and some of the best centermen in the world. I enjoyed it,” Couture said. “It was tough matchups some nights to play against Kopitar and Getzlaf and guys like that, but I think it helped me improve my game.”
Although he signed a five-year, $30 million contract extension in the summer of 2013, the deal officially kicks in now. Couture was asked if he’s feeling any more responsibility after a raise from $3 million last season to now $6 million annually.
“I don’t think about it. I’m reminded of it my teammates but that’s about it,” he said with a smirk. “I signed that contract the summer before, so it doesn’t enter my mind.”
You won’t find many guys more confident than Couture, who will almost certainly be wearing a full time letter as captain or an alternate at some point this season. He’ll put pressure on himself to produce no matter what the situation, though.
“I still feel like I’ve got a lot to improve on, and I want to improve my game,” he said.