Q&A with Sharks center Logan Couture

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Q&A with Sharks center Logan Couture

On Tuesday, I caught up with Logan Couture during his last few hours in Switzerland for an interview on 95.7 The Game. After 23 points in 22 games with Geneva-Servette, he’s headed back home, and says he will not look to play anywhere else but the NHL this season.  Here’s a transcript of the interview:

On making the decision to stop playing in Switzerland and head back to Canada:

“It was something that I looked at doing for a couple weeks. My main goal was to come over to Switzerland and get in shape for the NHL season, and be ready when it starts.  At this point where I’m at right now, I think I’m ready if the season were to start in the next couple weeks. I’m in game shape, played 20 plus games and got my timing down and everything.  I think I looked at it as a risk-and-reward type thing, where if I continue to play over here and something bad did happen, I would regret it. I’m coming back to Canada to spend some time with my family, which I don’t get to do very often during the season, it’s going to be nice to spend the holidays with them, but I’m hoping a deal does get done soon and we get back to playing hockey.”

On how Swiss hockey compares to the NHL game:

“It’s a lot different, obviously the rink is bigger, it’s much wider. The players are smaller and much less physical.  You get a lot more time with the puck over here.  Players lack the high end skill, but they can all skate.  That’s one thing I realized over here, all the Swiss players they’re fast.  They can really skate in the open ice and they use the extra ice that there is out there, with the space.  It’s a lot different hockey.  I can count the times I was physically hit with a body on one hand over 20 plus games so it’s a big difference.”

On what he will take away from his experience in Switzerland:

“Probably just being in a different country. This is the first time where I’ve been able to spend an extended time overseas in Europe. I was lucky enough to get some time to travel; I went to Paris for a couple days and went to Italy, just going around Europe a little bit.  But I’m a North American guy and I really miss being home, and the one thing that was being tough on me was during the baseball playoffs, not being able to watch.  Games don’t come on over here till 2 or 3 in the morning.”

On being alone in Europe:

“I’m all alone, I lived in a hotel for basically the first 2 months, and you know it got tough.  That’s one thing that was tough on me was being in a single hotel room for 2 months and being away from my family and the time change was tough.”

On how players view the owners, individually or as a whole:

“I haven’t spoke to any of the owners, except for two.  I was in a meeting in July, when the NHL gave us our first proposal. (Boston’s owner Jeremy) Jacobs was there, and the owner from Minnesota (Craig Leipold) was there, and you just get the feeling in those types of meetings with those two, that they are all about themselves and making money, they could care less who the players are. We all introduced ourselves to the owners, those two owners.  And they probably couldn’t tell, us, who we were. They don’t know who the players are, stuff like that.  It doesn’t mean it’s that way for all 30 owners. The players, we don’t know (about the owners) because they’re not allowed to talk.  We haven’t spoken to Sharks owners, anything like that; we don’t know how they feel about it. So that’s what we’re hoping to learn.”

On the communication process with owners:

“We’re going off what we’re hearing from players at those meetings. We’re living off that. It would be nice to hear what they (owners) all think. I think Bettman only needs 8 of them to vote with him and get something to pass. It’s tough for any of the players to gauge where they’re at, because we don’t hear a thing from them (directly).”

On his gut reaction, if there will be an NHL season:

“I hope so.  That’s what we all want to do as hockey players. I’ve played it my entire life for 19 years since I was 3 years old, you know it’s tough waking up not going to the rink, not getting into that game day groove, or to practice. I hope we get this figured out soon.”

Logan’s plans to stay in game shape:

“I’m going to get back into the gym probably starting next week. This first weekend I’m going to check out one of my brother’s games, I haven’t been able to watch him play in 6 or 7 years now. That will be nice to do, just get back and enjoy some time with my parents. Spend some nights and days; really I haven’t seen them in 2 months and it’s been hard to keep in touch with the time change. Probably start working out next week and looking for some ice. I’ve got some buddies, I know Corey Perry (Ducks) and Drew Doughty (Kings) are home in London (Ontario) skating, and just go from there.”

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

Melodrama demands that San Jose’s exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs be portrayed as the very likely end of the Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau Era.

It probably won’t work that way, and probably shouldn't as will be explained further down your reading, but when you get shoved out of the postseason in your own building, melancholy is the order of the day. Even if the melancholy isn’t for any player in particular, but for an entire era.

Nobody will blame Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on bad luck (although Joe Pavelski going crossbar/post on the final power play of their season was close enough to it), or unjust officiating, or even lousy ice (though that was a fairly clear by-product for those who like their hockey a little less sticky). Edmonton took advantage of two critical Sharks errors 56 seconds apart in the second period, Oiler goaltender Cam Talbot cheated the gods multiple times when the Sharks weren’t vomiting up chances on their own, and young legs joined up with growing know-how to make this a just outcome.

But for Thornton and Marleau, a quick round of 30-on-1 interviews asking them if they thought their days in Finville Heights had finally come to an end were their mutual introduction to yet another unfulfilling offseason.

And a team whose core is among the league’s oldest was just exposed for that very flaw by a team that, in head coach Todd McLellan’s words, “Grew up, learned how to get into the playoffs, how to get a lead, how to play with it, and how to deal with a desperate team at the end of a game. Now we’ll see what they have to learn next.”

That learning will comes against the Anaheim Ducks, who are 15-0-3 in their last 18 games, including four straight against the Calgary Flames.

As for the rest of it, Edmonton earned its advancement without a big series, or even a single big game, from Connor McDavid. Rather, their difference makers were Talbot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (whose work with Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic against the Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski line was the defining matchup) Leon Draisaitl (after a rocky start), Oskar Klefbom (their best defenseman), Zack Kassian (who made the most of his 15 minutes of fame), and Drake Caggiula (whose promotion to the McDavid line at the expense of Patrick Maroon helped wake up Draisaitl).

Plus, McLellan finally got to deliver a rebuttal for his firing by the Sharks two years ago. He didn’t, of course, at least not where anyone could hear it, but the exploding fumigant of the 2015 season never sat right with him as the one who paid the full retail price. Now, with this result, he can let the NHL’s Stanley Cup media guide do the talking for him.

That, and having the team of the future, while San Jose is trying to sort out its past. This is a closing window, one which stayed open a very long time and actually pried itself back open a year ago for the run that took them to the Cup final, but it is now clear that they play at a pace the modern game has outrun. Thornton is still hugely important (he remained an impact player despite the leg injury that cost him Games 1 and 2), and there are no clear young replacements for the central group.

This is why all the melodramatic speculations about Thornton and Marleau in particular and perhaps the entire era ignore one central truth – there are not nearly enough replacements for a reboot, or even a course correction. They may be stuck as what they are – a group whose veterans are still their best players, playing a game that younger and faster players are likely to do better. The Pacific Division, being easily the thinnest of the four, may allow one more year of status quo, but while the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, the method is now clear.

And Edmonton, young, impetuous, sprightly and McLellanized Edmonton, has been the instrument of San Jose’s education.