How Sharks captain Logan Couture laid NHL foundation in minor hockey

How Sharks captain Logan Couture laid NHL foundation in minor hockey

Sharks captain Logan Couture had a fitting nickname during his minor hockey days.

When he played for the London Junior Knights during his early teens, Couture's coaches called him "the slump-buster."

"[Kids] who are 14, 15 put a lot of emphasis on what's on the game sheet," John Caldarozzi, Couture's coach at the time, recalled to NBC Sports California's Sonia Tydingco earlier this week. "And in Logan's case, he'd sometimes have teammates who wouldn't score as many goals as they'd like. So, when we slid Logan beside them, the slumps would bust.

“Nothing makes a hockey parent -- and a hockey player -- happier than scoring a goal, and Logan was always happy to help those teammates that might have been struggling at the time."

Couture played in the Junior Knights program for three seasons before playing the 2004-05 season in junior B and then four more in major junior with the OHL's Ottawa 67's. The Sharks drafted Couture No. 10 overall in the 2007 draft after his second season in Ottawa, and Couture developed into a homegrown star over the ensuing decade-and-change.

He signed an eight-year contract extension last summer that will keep him in teal until 2027, and San Jose named him team captain in September. Long before the Sharks gave Couture the "C," though, Caldarozzi saw the traits that made the 30-year-old the obvious choice to succeed departed captain Joe Pavelski.

"I remember saying to Logan, 'When your coach trusts you, the game of hockey gets real easy for you," Caldarozzi said. "In his case, we could always trust Logan. Probably one of the more enjoyable things about coaching him was that you never had to worry about him.

“... You knew he was always prepared, focused. It's a message I send to a lot of kids in our community when I'm on the ice with them. Everybody says they want to be a hockey player, but there's a certain amount of sacrifice that goes into it and Logan made the sacrifice."

Image credit: John Caldarozzi

Caldarozzi remembered meeting Couture as a shy teenager, and the coach said he used to leave a note on the dash of his car reminding him to talk to Couture at practice. Otherwise, there wasn’t much to talk about.

But Couture’s game spoke volumes. He, along with star Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, were the focal points of the Junior Knights’ offense, and Caldarozzi said it was common when the pair would score or assist each of their team’s goals.

Couture also started to develop the two-way skill set he ultimately became most known for. He could play in all situations, showcasing a keen “understanding of what helps the team win and what helps his teammates succeed,” according to Caldarozzi.

That care for his teammates stood out to Caldarozzi when he coached the Sharks' captain. It made Couture the Junior Knights’ “slump-buster,” and Caldarozzi said it still drives Couture’s actions off the ice, too.

“He's an outstanding example for all the kids in the community,” Caldarozzi said. “Not because of what he's done as a hockey player, but because of what he's doing with [his fame] as a hockey player."

Couture has hosted a charity casino night each of the last three summers in London in order to raise money for brain research and concussion awareness. This past summer, he donated a signed, game-worn playoff jersey to a charity golf tournament that honoring Caldarozzi’s cousin, who died of cancer.

The donation didn’t surprise Caldarozzi, but Couture did not tell his former coach about it ahead of time.

“[He’s] very generous with his celebrity, but he wouldn’t want you to know about it,” Caldarozzi said.

[RELATED: Sharks need Meier, young core to get going offensively]

The Sharks have struggled in Couture’s first season as captain, winning just five of their first 16 games. Couture has scored one goal during that span, and none since Oct. 5.

Just as Caldarozzi believed him to be in London, the Sharks could use Couture to help bust their collective slump. His captaincy is compelling proof they believe he can.

“He's put in a lot of time and effort and energy into getting to this point,” Caldarozzi said. “It must be quite the honor when your teammates -- some of them future Hall of Famers and hopefully all of them Stanley Cup champions -- select you as the captain.”

Sharks continue to suffer from lack of scoring, abundance of penalties


Sharks continue to suffer from lack of scoring, abundance of penalties

Evander Kane called it "interesting." Head coach Peter DeBoer called it "messy." No matter what word you choose, everyone can agree that the Sharks' 3-1 loss to the Predators on Tuesday got downright ugly.

San Jose had what was probably its best defensive game of the month in Nashville, being stingy and not giving the opposing Preds a lot of room to work. But with a scoreless tie after two periods, tempers began to fly, and what followed was a tsunami of penalties that ultimately determined the Sharks' fate.

The Sharks felt like they were in this one. But a plethora of penalties late in the second period and early in the third changed that. A whopping 39 penalty minutes later, San Jose had dropped the fourth and final game of its road trip. 

"We're still taking too many penalties," DeBoer told reporters after the loss. "I thought we pressed really hard in the second, didn't give them anything. I thought we deserved to be up going into the third and we didn't get rewarded for the work in the second. And they're at home, I thought they pushed hard. Pushed us back early in the third, got us on our heels a little bit. Really, when you get into a game like that, whoever scores first is probably going to win."

San Jose actually went on the penalty kill just 47 seconds into the game when Barclay Goodrow went to the box for slashing. But the real wave of penalties came late in the second period after Goodrow and Calle Jarnkrok received matching minors. Tempers were unhinged from that point on -- heck even the officials were fired up, as the microphone caught one using explicit language while reprimanding Nashville's Roman Josi. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

The biggest tussle, however, took place in the final seconds of the second period when Dan Hamhuis cross-checked Kane and then Auston Watson jumped in as the third man in. Though Kane was defending himself, the officials tagged him with 19 penalty minutes, essentially taking him out of the remainder of the contest. 

"I don't understand the 19 minutes and how that was made up," Kane remarked when asked about the scuffle. "There was a lot of that all night going back and forth."

"Tough for him to sit for that long," DeBoer said in Kane's defense. "Hamhuis started the whole thing and then Watson comes in and grabs him and we end up with the short end of it. But it's a messy situation, I'm not going to second guess the call."

Regardless of how many penalties the Sharks racked up, they still needed to find a way to score more goals. They only found the back of the net once Tuesday, and only scored once in each of their previous two games. Despite doing some good work in the offensive zone, San Jose isn't going to reap the rewards without scoring goals to make up for its mistakes.

"You've got to find a way to win and we've got to find a way to score," DeBoer summarized. "I think that's the story of the trip."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in contentious 3-1 loss to Predators


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in contentious 3-1 loss to Predators


It wasn't full of offensive firepower, but what Tuesday's game between the Sharks and Predators lacked in goals, it made up for with flying fists.

Unfortunately, despite the fiery matchup and an entertaining “hot mic” moment, San Jose still couldn’t find a way to turn its fortunes around. The Sharks concluded their battle at Bridgestone Arena with a 3-1 loss, ending their road trip without a single win.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's game:

A plethora of penalties

With the game scoreless through the first two periods, the two sides became visibly agitated with one another. But rather than take out their frustrations out on the scoreboard, they took it out on each other. By the end of second stanza, the Sharks led the charge with 31 penalty minutes to Nashville’s 29.

While the Preds were the ones with multiple players simultaneously in the sin bin, it was Sharks winger Evander Kane who racked up a staggering 19 penalty minutes resulting from a tussle with Nashville's Auston Watson. Being without the power forward for almost the entire third period visibly took its toll on San Jose, which continued its dance in and out of the box into the third frame.

The PK was overworked 

San Jose's league-leading penalty kill wasn't its normal self last weekend, but it looked strong and sturdy Tuesday night in Nashville. It was a good thing, too, considering how many times the Sharks found themselves shorthanded, particularly early on.

Unfortunately, the abundance of penalties eventually wore San Jose’s PK down and Nashville was able to find the back of the net on a power play with less than 10 minutes left to play. It's been said before, but clearly it needs to be said again: The Sharks need to clean their game up and give the penalty kill a break so they don’t burn out.

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

A better goalie matchup 

One of San Jose's biggest problems over the course of the road trip was that Martin Jones was outplayed by the netminder on the other end of the ice. That was not the case Tuesday night in Nashville, as Jones and Juuse Saros traded off making big saves up until Nick Bonino put the Predators up 1-0 in the third frame.

Jones had a particularly nice sprawling save on a four-minute penalty kill in the first period, which could have put the Sharks in a 1-0 hole pretty quickly. Perhaps the standard is too low for a team of San Jose's talent level, but after the rough weekend the Sharks had, they deserve credit for getting out of the first period with a scoreless tie. Avoiding an early deficit clearly gave San Jose a boost of energy, which persisted throughout the game. Well, at least until all of the fights started.