Sharks Need Couture to Stay Healthy

Logan Couture is the lifeblood of the San Jose Sharks, but a number of injuries over the past couple of seasons have prohibited the 32-year-old from playing to the best of his ability. Almost every time Couture steps on the ice, there’s a certain electricity that the team lacks when he’s not in the lineup. In order for the club to be successful moving forward, he will need to remain healthy.

While having Couture is undoubtedly a good thing, it’s alarming how quickly the Sharks fall apart without him. He has missed a significant amount of time in the past two seasons, and the Sharks have subsequently missed the postseason.

Injuries

Couture was injured on March 24 after an open-ice hit had the captain take the brunt of the butt-end of Jeff Carter’s stick (who was then with the LA Kings). (from ‘Sharks’ Logan Couture injured by hit from Kings’ Jeff Carter,’ Mercury News, 03/24/2021)Though he played two days later against the Arizona Coyotes, Couture mentioned a stiff neck that likely hindered his ability to perform to his level. However, there is something to be said about powering through relatively minor injuries to be there for his team.

But this was not the only injury that kept him off the ice.

He was injured again just two weeks later. Against the Anaheim Ducks on April 6, Couture took a shot off his right leg late in the final frame. Though he was injured on the play, he played one more shift in a 5-1 loss to one of their Western Conference rivals.

Both of these injuries were preceded by an outstanding performance from Couture, who was tied for 10th in the league in goals as of mid-March. He was on pace to set career-high numbers if not for the injuries that all but ensured the Sharks would not be playing for the Stanley Cup for a second consecutive season.

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Couture still managed to put up quality numbers this season. In the 53 games, he had 17 goals and 14 assists, not necessarily All-Star numbers, but an indication of what he might have done had he stayed healthy for the full regular season. There’s no guarantee that the Sharks would have made the postseason, but Couture could have reached career-high stats.

The same is true for what Couture managed to do last season. He put up similar numbers in the 2019-20 season when he had 16 goals and 23 assists in 52 games. These stats are, again, overshadowed by a small ankle fracture that forced him to miss six weeks. There’s no telling how those six weeks would have gone had Couture been healthy and firing on all cylinders.

“The 30-year-old Couture has 254 goals and 289 assists in 708 career games. He is also known for raising his level of play in key moments, ranking second in the NHL with 48 playoff goals and fourth with 101 points since his first post-season in 2009-10. Couture led all players last season with 14 goals during San Jose’s playoff run.”

Production in the Past

In the 2017-18 season, when he played 78 games, Couture scored 34 goals and 61 points. This was the same season that the Sharks swept the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs, only to be shown up by the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round.

But Couture showed up. In 10 postseason games, he scored four goals and 12 points, which isn’t bad for a player who was about to take on the captaincy. Joe Pavelski — then captain of the Sharks — put up four fewer points in that postseason. Couture proved that he could make a huge impact on a team that many believed was on their way to their first Stanley Cup title — myself included.

Joe Pavelski Sharks
Joe Pavelski, former San Jose Shark, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Couture’s talent and dominance didn’t stop there. In what might be considered the most exciting playoff run in recent memory, he scored 20 points (14 goals, six assists) in 20 postseason games in 2019. The Sharks played the Golden Knights in the first round, and Couture held his own, matching Tomas Hertl’s team-high of eight points in seven games (six goals, two assists).

Granted, the team looked very different in 2018-19 than it does today, but Couture was the cornerstone of their success then as he is now. And he continues to be the cornerstone, which makes his injuries an issue. There’s no other player on the Sharks’ roster that can fill Couture’s role when he is on the outside looking in.

Moving Forward

Couture is a two-time All-Star, but he needs to stay healthy in the later years of his NHL career if he expects the Sharks to win the Cup. This issue has plagued San Jose recently; All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson has never been the same since his groin injury in 2019, though he still has several quality seasons left in him.

As the veterans inch their way through their 30s, fielding injuries here and there, it will be up to the young players to step in and fill those roles, however large they may be. While Couture is a one-of-a-kind player, it’s not too much to ask for the rest of the Sharks roster to play up to him — to demonstrate that when he leaves the club, it’s still in capable hands.


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