Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Logan Couture, C
2015-16 cap hit/contract: $6 million, signed through 2018-19
2014-15 year in review: Logan Couture played in all 82 games, scoring 27 goals and adding 40 assists, and with 67 points was the Sharks’ second-leading scorer behind Joe Pavelski. He led San Jose with 263 shots on goal (13th in the NHL).
One dubious number that stands out, however, is Couture's -6 rating. Or, if you’re not a plus/minus subscriber, the advanced stats show that Couture finished a -23 in shot attempts when games were close. In other words, Couture’s line – which had been deployed in years past as a shutdown line – wasn’t able to nullify the opponent’s best players on many nights. That’s not all Couture’s fault, as he was often playing with Patrick Marleau, whose poor 2014-15 season we’ve already documented.
Still, Couture can probably be better himself. He struggled early, perhaps as a result of offseason hand surgery, before coming on in the second half.
Off of the ice, the Sharks mishandled Couture’s role among the leadership group. Despite being mentioned over and over again last summer as one of the team’s catalysts and young leaders, Couture wasn’t named as one of the rotating alternates. That was disappointing to him, and just one of many examples of the team’s dysfunction. Couture was blunt when assessing the overall culture at the end of the season, admitting that it was “not great.”
2015-16 outlook: Couture will clearly enter this season as one of the top two centers with Joe Thornton, and should challenge for the team lead in goals and points. At 26 years old he’s in the prime of his career, and he’ll have to be a main contributor if the Sharks want to contend.
What will be interesting to monitor in camp is who Couture’s linemates are. Marleau may not deserve a place in the top six anymore, so perhaps that pair is broken up. Matt Nieto, also a frequent linemate last season, struggled through a tough sophomore year. Couture’s downturn as a defensively strong center was partially due the team’s dismal forward depth last season, so finding him effective two-way wingers is paramount for both the offense and defense.
It’s also time to stitch a letter on Couture’s sweater. No Sharks player was more open and honest regarding the team’s woes last season, and although that’s just a miniscule part of what a leader is supposed to do, it’s something that was lacking after the departures of players like Ryane Clowe and Dan Boyle.
The Sharks have been criticized in the past for not having enough players that hate to lose, but Couture has never been one of them. No one on the roster celebrates goals as jubilantly, or takes losses as hard as he does. The 26-year-old wears his emotion on his sleeve, and that’s something that should be embraced by the new coaching staff – and by more of his teammates.