SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ top line center leads the team in even-strength scoring, consistently plays against the opposition’s top line, was honored by the league as being one of its three best players this past week, and was recently referred to by his coach as the “head guy” who is currently “driving the bus.”
No, it’s not Joe Thornton. It’s 24-year-old Logan Couture, who is slowly but oh-so-surely becoming the proverbial head of the snake when it comes to the San Jose Sharks.
Todd McLellan gave his praiseworthy comments about his young star after a four-point performance against Minnesota on Thursday, in which Couture had a career-high four points (2g, 2a) in a 6-1 win. On Saturday, Couture said he hadn’t heard or read the quotes, but appeared flattered.
“I didn’t know he said that, but it’s obviously awesome to hear,” Couture said. “We have a lot of leaders on this team, and a lot of guys who play well consistently. I just follow these guys’ lead. I’ve been here for four years and learned a lot from a lot of these guys, but that’s still pretty cool to hear.”
For the first time this season in his four-year career, Couture has been included by McLellan in the team’s leadership group, an obvious sign that the Sharks’ coaching staff and organization thinks very highly of the man who seems to be on the path to becoming their future captain at some point.
Couture leads the team with 19 goals, is second behind Thornton with 35 points, and his 22 points at even-strength is tops on the club.
“It’s evolving more with his play and his dominance on the ice. He’s exerting himself, and guys are following,” McLellan said of Couture’s stake in the team, and presence among its leaders.
“As the years go on, players can’t play forever, and Logan is a very good young player in the league and he’s been around some important people that have taught him a lot of good things about leadership. He’ll have to grow his skills that way as time goes on.”
Couture commands a high level of respect from his peers already. Dan Boyle, who has played with some top NHL talent in his 14-year career and won a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay in 2004, was virtually gushing over his steadily improving teammate.
“He’s an amazing player. Jumbo [Thornton] and Patty [Marleau] have been here for a while, but Logan is the man,” Boyle said. “He’s an amazing, amazing hockey player.
“He might be young in age, but it’s what you do on the ice and how you carry yourself on the ice. He’s a guy you want whether you’re down a goal or up a goal in the last minute. I can’t say enough good things about him, he’s just been All-World.”
Brad Stuart has a different perspective. Stuart played against Couture for three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings before an offseason trade brought the defenseman back to the Sharks. Another player with a Stanley Cup on his resume, and who has played with a whole host future Hall of Fame players, Stuart became even more impressed with Couture once they put on the same sweater.
“I knew he was a good player playing against him, and a guy you had to be aware of that could skate, shoot, and do a lot of good things. Now, being his teammate, I’m impressed with how had he works during the game at both ends of the rink,” Stuart said.
“I think in a lot of games, he’s been our leader. Game in and game out, he kind of sets the tone for us with his work ethic, and that’s something I’ve noticed and been impressed with. I really think it’s important for us, because he seems to work hard at both ends of the rink. That’s what the really good players are good at. I’ve been impressed with the way he’s done that.”
The Sharks haven’t named an alternate captain since Ryane Clowe was traded to the Rangers, even though Couture is the obvious choice to wear the “A.” McLellan doesn’t believe that should matter when it comes to leadership, though.
He said: “We still obviously have our captains and our assistants, but there are a lot of other guys leading without that little piece of felt on their shoulder right now.”
In Couture’s case, he’s not just leading. He’s the pacesetter. And that’s just fine with everyone else.
“There is nobody jumping in Cooch’s way. He’s allowed to do what he’s been doing, and good for him,” McLellan said.