If anyone knows what it's like to wear the "C" for the Sharks, and the pressure that can come with the letter, it's Patrick Marleau.
Marleau was the Sharks' captain for parts of five seasons, before getting stripped of the captaincy following San Jose's first-round playoff loss to the rival Anaheim Ducks in 2009. He has played under four more since losing the letter, five others wore the "C" in teal before Marleau became the permanent captain in the 2003-04 season.
Even though Logan Couture's first season as captain coincided with the Sharks' worst since the one prior to Marleau holding the captaincy, Marleau told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz last week he believes Couture is the right man for the job.
“You look at the core players and how talented they are, and how hard working they are,” Marleau said of Couture and the Sharks. “You look at (Logan Couture), he does everything out there, power play, penalty kill, scoring goals, blocking shots. Not unlike how (Joe Pavelski) was, as well. It’s easy to get behind a guy like that, and pull the rope with him.”
Couture succeeded Pavelski as captain after the Sharks let Pavelski walk in free agency. Pavelski signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars last July, and Couture officially assumed the role in September.
Few envisioned what transpired next. The Sharks fired coach Pete DeBoer in December, had five losing streaks of at least four games and ended up missing the playoffs -- even in the NHL's modified format following the season's suspension due to the coronavirus -- by a country mile. Pavelski was one of a handful of offseason departures the Sharks had trouble compensating for, but not many predicted San Jose would end the regular season dead-last in the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
Couture said in May that he will be a better leader for the experience.
“It was obviously a learning experience in a lot of different situations, many of which I had never been in as a player,” Couture said at the time. “We had a coach get fired. We went through tough times, a lot of guys got hurt and we lost a lot of games in difficult ways. Although it was a very difficult, difficult season, that I can learn a lot from situations we were in as a team and I was in individually. My goal is to become a better teammate, person and player from this past year.”
Will Marleau get to see how Couture applies those lessons up close? After he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins ahead of the deadline, Marleau and the Sharks said earlier this year they would be open to a reunion when Marleau becomes a free agent this offseason.
If and when Marleau returns for a 21st season with the Sharks, he'll do so fully believing in his latest successor as captain.