Logan Couture has been with the San Jose Sharks long enough, but, more to the point, he’ll be sticking around too. That makes him the easy choice to become the team’s next captain.
The Sharks Heart Couture
The 30-year-old is entering his 11th season in the NHL, all with the Sharks. This will be the first of his eight-year, $64 million extension. In other words, the Sharks must really love this guy.
You can make the argument that Couture is finally getting what he’s earned with his new plum contract, after making a modest $6 million per season since 2014-15. That’s as close to a team-friendly bargain as there is in today’s NHL for a 60-70-point guy in his prime.
Nevertheless, the fact is general manager Doug Wilson gave Couture a modified no-trade clause, which says he can choose three teams to which he can be dealt. Combine that tidbit with the fact Couture will be 37 (and well out of his prime) by the time the deal is done… well, it’s clear Couture isn’t going anywhere. The Sharks probably like it that way.
The alternative would be Wilson made a huge a mistake and that’s unlikely. After all, Wilson’s one of the longest-tenured GMs in the league for a reason: Wilson’s one of the top in his position if not the absolute best. He rarely makes mistakes let alone mistakes of this hypothetical magnitude.
Couture vs. Thornton
So, assuming Wilson knew exactly what he was doing when he signed Couture to his new deal last summer, what’s not to like? A Sharks lifer, Couture has been a consistently productive member of its offense for a decade, scoring 240 goals in 663 career games, which averages out to 30 per 82-game season. If Joe Thornton can still score 50 points, albeit 43 of them being assists, at age 37, Couture theoretically can too.
On the subject of Thornton, he remains unsigned. The now-40-year-old would be one of several potential alternative candidates, assuming he returns as expected. However, there would be an elephant in the room: Thornton previously served as captain, before being stripped of the honor.
Going back to that well would be akin to swearing off your favorite restaurant after getting into it with the head chef for some stupid reason. Maybe it’s because they neglected to win the Stanley Cup when only a single chef out of 31 can in a given season, for example. Then, five years later, in a moment of weakness you ask yourself, “Hey, you know what I’m in the mood for tonight?”
Of course, the rest of the kitchen staff has probably changed in those five years and it’s probably water under the bridge, but show some commitment to your decision for crying out loud. Plus, in Thornton’s case, there’s no telling if it’s worth compromising your conviction over, seeing as the place may close down any day now. He’s that close to retiring.
What About Burns and Vlasic?
There’s no such issue with either Brent Burns or Marc-Edouard Vlasic, with the defensemen due to stay Sharks until 2025 and 2026 respectively. Both would make fine choices as leaders in the locker room. However, in Burns’ case, he doesn’t have Couture’s seniority, having been a Shark for two fewer seasons. However, much like Vlasic, who admittedly has three seasons as a Shark on Couture, he reportedly isn’t all that comfortable with the media.
Plus, Burns has never worn a letter for the Sharks over an entire season. Burns may be perfectly deserving. Hell, Burns was in the mix when Pavelski was named captain for the 2015-16 season. However, Burns jumping the queue now would do little else but serve as a slap in Couture’s face.
To his credit, Vlasic has previously worn a letter for the Sharks, as one of four alternates during the 2014-15 season, when there was no official captain. It was Todd McLellan’s last as head coach after Thornton had been stripped of the captaincy. When Peter DeBoer was hired ahead of the 2015-16 season, Pavelski was named captain, Thornton and Couture having served as his alternates since.
Couture Poised to Be a Great Captain
Professionally speaking, Couture has thrived in the role. In his first playoffs as an alternate, he set a Sharks record with 30 points. He then increased his regular-season point totals in each of the last three campaigns, setting a new high-water mark in goals in 2017-18 (34). He also just hit a new career best in points (70). Emotionally, Couture has relished his role as a leader up to now as well. So, logically, the next step for Couture is to become captain.
Needless to say at this juncture, Couture is ready. He wants it. He deserves it. Put simply, there’s no other choice. For a franchise that has a history of making things more difficult than they have to be, especially with regard to the captaincy, sometimes the easiest choice is also the best.
It’s admittedly a largely symbolic position. Plus there’s obviously no shortage of leaders in the Sharks’ locker room. So, rest assured, the Sharks will be okay regardless of who ultimately gets the captaincy, as they will have the experience of Couture, Burns, Vlasic and presumably Thornton from which to draw moving forward no matter who gets which letter. There’s not really a wrong answer here. There is one that’s more right than the others, though. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, it conveniently starts with a “C” too.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.