Shark Bites: Couture’s Critiques, Marleau’s Milestones

It was a dreadful Tour de Canada (and Buffalo) last week for the San Jose Sharks. After reeling in three straight wins, the Sharks erased that progress with a three-game losing streak, followed by an ugly two-game losing streak to end last week on a sour note. The four losses in five games has the Sharks sitting firmly at the bottom of the standings, finding themselves in seventh place in the Pacific Division, just one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings. This week was a big struggle for head coach Pete DeBoer and his San Jose squad — here are some notes from the last week in the Bay Area.

Weekly Game Results

@ Buffalo Sabres, Tues. 10/22, 4-3 Loss (SO)

@ Montreal Canadiens, Thurs. 10/24, 4-2 Win

@Toronto Maple Leafs, Fri. 10/25, 4-1 Loss

@ Ottawa Senators, Sun. 10/27 5-2 Loss

Captain Couture Speaks Out

San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture
San Jose Sharks’ Logan Couture (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

Newly-minted captain Logan Couture had himself a busy week. One thing about him is for sure — he’s not afraid of holding anyone accountable, including himself, for their mistakes. After a hard-fought game on Tuesday against the Sabres, the Sharks found themselves with a chance to win in overtime. After a long shift and ill-advised line change by Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier that resulted in the game-winner by Jack Eichel, Couture didn’t hesitate to speak his mind.

“Just an inexcusable change,” Couture said. “Two guys that stayed out too long looking for offense. It’s a selfish play that doesnt need to be part of this team, so we’ll figure that out.”

To their credit, the duo understood their captain’s frustration and his message.

“I don’t take it personally,” Labanc said of Couture’s comments. “He’s being a captain and he’s just holding me accountable, me and Timo. We made a bad change but we just have to learn from it, move on and make sure that down the road we’re not making mistakes like that again. Me and Timo, I think we’re going to come back stronger next game.”

from ‘Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc hope to “come back stronger” after OT gaffe’, The Mercury News – 10/23/2019

Just three games later, after a loss to the struggling Senators in which the Sharks looked lifeless on both sides of the puck, Couture put his teammates to task, as well as shouldering some of the blame himself.

“That’s been the story this season, we aren’t finishing,” Couture said after the game. “I can’t be sitting at one goal right now. Tommy (Hertl) is at three, Timo’s at two. We’ve got to score some more goals. We’re at 12 games in and I can’t be sitting at one goal.”

While the offense isn’t scoring much, the defense isn’t blameless in the matter, either. Through 12 games, the Sharks are being outscored 43-31 with the fourth highest goals-against per game with 3.58 and the 24th highest goals-for per game with 2.58.

Marleau’s Milestones

One of the high points thus far this season for the Sharks is the return of Patrick Marleau. After a brief stint in Toronto, Marleau made his triumphant return to the Sharks roster to much fanfare and excitement. Despite his team’s unremarkable week, it has been a memorable week for the veteran forward as he continues to move his way up the all-time ranks.

San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau
San Jose Sharks’ Patrick Marleau (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Marleau had two assists on Tuesday night against Buffalo, his second helper moving him past Bobby Hull and into 52nd on the all-time NHL points list.

Marleau also suited up for his 1,500th game for the Sharks Wednesday night against his only other NHL team, the Maple Leafs. He currently sits at number seven on the all-time list of games played with one team. Should Marleau stay healthy this season, he can potentially move all the way up to number two.

In addition to those major milestones, Marleau is also in great company as one of only eight players to score a goal as a teen and over 40 with the same franchise.

Vlasic Moves Up Sharks’ All-Time Ranks

Not to be outdone by Marleau, struggling defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic also achieved a major milestone. With his goal against Buffalo on Tuesday, his first of the season and 68th of his career, Vlasic is now tied with Dan Boyle for second all-time goals among Sharks defensemen. 

Who’s Hot?

Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane

Kane and Hertl remained hot as they followed up a successful week with more exciting play. Kane scored two goals, both assisted by Hertl, and an assist against Montreal. He also added another goal against Ottawa. Hertl continued with the helpers, dishing out four last week, including the two to Kane, and two to Labanc. The two seem to have great chemistry as they continue to produce for this struggling offense.

Kevin Labanc

Despite Labanc’s overtime miscue in Buffalo, the 23-year-old forward scored three goals and added an assist last week. There hasn’t been a lot of offensive production in San Jose, so it’s nice to see Labanc put some numbers up as the forwards try to get going.

Kevin Labanc
San Jose Sharks forward Kevin Labanc is congratulated by the bench (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

On the season, Labanc is second on the team in goals with five, and is sixth in points with seven. He’s also sporting a 52.8 Corsi for % in 12 games. After a very slow start to the season, Labanc has become a welcomed distraction for frustrated Sharks fans.

Who’s Not?

Sharks’ Defense

While plus/minus rating is really just a surface stat, a very positive or negative number is still an indicator of how much scoring goes on when a player is on the ice. For the San Jose defensemen, and the entire team in general, there’s a whole lot of scoring going on against them.

The big three — Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Vlasic — have scored a total of 21 points and are a combined minus-27 rating. The struggles go much deeper than those three, but they’re being paid over $30 million, roughly 37% of the salary cap, and aren’t making much of an impact on the results. Burns does have 10 assists, including two against Ottawa, and Karlsson has seven, so they’re helping out a little bit on the offensive end, but the Sharks offense has been extremely stagnant lately and the lack of defensive resistance and abundance of goals against isn’t helping the matter while they try to rectify the problem.

The Sharks will look to bounce back this week with a game at Boston on Tuesday night and then a back-to-back against Winnipeg and Vancouver on November 1 and 2. Perhaps a little home cooking will serve them well.