As soon as July 1 rolled around, Logan Couture made sure he secured his future in San Jose. The smart, two-way center signed an eight-year contract extension worth $64 million that day, keeping the Ontario native in his adapted Northern California home for years to come.
“San Jose has always been a comfortable place to play, a place I’ve grown to love,” Couture said. “We’re going to stay competitive for a long time, so it was an easy decision.”
Couture was drafted ninth overall by the Sharks in 2007, making him somewhat of a rarity: in the past 15 drafts, San Jose has only picked in the top-10 three times (Timo Meier and Devin Setoguchi were the other two selections). The franchise has made the post-season 13 of the past 14 seasons, making the Stanley Cup final in 2016. For Couture, a lot of the credit goes to an organization bent on success, with GM Doug Wilson pulling the trigger on key deals to make up for the lack of high picks.
“Look at the big names who have been brought in over the years,” Couture said. “Joe Thornton in a trade, Brent Burns, Martin Jones...those are cornerstones for an organization. Doug’s done a great job. You get good players, you’re going to get a good team.”
What is interesting about Couture is that he began his NHL career surrounded by veterans such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle, but now he’s the type of player younger kids can look up to. Only Thornton remains on the Sharks from that trio, but ‘Jumbo’ is still a force for good thanks to his attitude and work ethic.
“It rubs off on everyone,” Couture said. “Just seeing how much fun he’s having, playing the game in his 20th season this year. He’s still one of the first guys at the rink and one of the last guys leaving.”
At 29, Couture is coming off one of his best offensive seasons ever. He set a new high with 34 goals and led the Sharks in scoring during the playoffs. The crafty pivot has made a habit of showing up large in the post-season lately, with 45 points in his past 40 playoff games.
Wilson believes there are young players in the Sharks pipeline who are ready for a crack at the big time, so he didn’t add any veterans in the off-season (the Mike Hoffman trade being a quick-witted ruse that shuttled the scorer to Florida from Ottawa). Couture isn’t alone in being a leader - along with Thornton, you’ve still got Burns and Joe Pavelski around - but his time soaking up experience from those players and Marleau has come in handy.
“I got to sit beside Patty for eight years and just watch him,” Couture said. “You learn so much. A guy that sticks around the league for 19 years; they’re doing a lot of things right.”
In a Western Conference that seems very wide open right now, the Sharks are poised to be in the thick of the hunt once again. They’ve got skill at every position and the dressing room by all accounts is a great place to work. Power forward Evander Kane found that to be the case after he came over from Buffalo and he ended up signing an extension earlier this spring. Kane has had conflicts before, so why has San Jose worked so far?
“Our dressing room is very welcoming, very open,” Couture said. “There are a lot of different characters, whether it’s Brent Burns or ‘Jumbo’ or ‘Kaner.’ No one judges him for what happened in the past. We judge him for what he brings to the rink for the Sharks and we’re happy to have him.”
There’s that San Jose culture talking again.