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.
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.”