OTTAWA – Throughout the second half the season, Logan Couture has been among the more open and honest Sharks when assessing what has to be his worst season as a professional from a team standpoint.
He didn’t hold back after Monday’s disheartening loss to Ottawa that all but assured the Sharks that they won’t be a playoff team for the first time since 2002-03.
After saying, among other things, that the Sharks aren’t “good enough right now to compete against good teams in the NHL,” he was asked if it’s tough to look at the remaining nine games now that the team’s playoff chances are so slim.
“It shouldn’t be. You’re a rookie, you want to finish the year strong if you haven’t had a good year. You’re a second [year] guy, and you haven’t had a good year, you want to finish the year strong,” Couture said.
“If you’re a guy that’s taken on a bigger leadership [role] and you haven’t had the greatest year that you think you should have, you want to show it in the last nine games. If you’re a guy who’s [had a] 10, 12 or 14-year career, you want to finish the year strong.”
* * *
I asked Todd McLellan after the game how difficult this is for him, as the situation gets more and more dire. I didn’t exactly mean him specifically, although he seemed to take it that way (I clearly could have phrased the question better, so that’s on me).
He replied: “It's sure not about me. It's about the group and the team and I'm part of that. The coaching staff feels the same pain as the players do. In fact, I think that emotionally everybody is involved and everybody is on the edge, but the players are the ones going out sweating and blocking shots and grinding.
“The last group anybody needs to be concerned about is the coaches.”
McLellan’s job status, of course – as well as many others on the coaching staff and in the front office – will be something to monitor once the season ends.
* * *
Among the few bright spots over the past three weeks has been the play of rookie Chris Tierney. Sure, Tierney made a mistake on the game-tying goal in Ottawa, but it’s starting to look like he may have more upside than even second-year forwards Tomas Hertl or Matt Nieto.
Tierney scored a second period goal against the Senators, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead that they would eventually relinquish.
I talked to Tierney after Monday’s morning skate about his bigger role lately.
“It’s great. I’m playing a lot right now and I don’t want to let it go to waste,” said the 20-year-old. “I want to try and take advantage of these minutes and try to keep getting better. As I get more time and as I put in more games, I think I feel more comfortable making plays with every game.”
“There’s a time where you’ve had enough time getting comfortable, and it’s time to be a regular pro. That time has got to come soon.”
Tierney’s development was plainly aided by his time in AHL Worcester, in yet another sign that the Sharks might have been better off letting some of their other younger players like Hertl, Nieto and Barclay Goodrow marinate a little more in the minors.