San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture has garnered a lot of attention lately, and for good reason (unlike other DMV line-skipping hockey players). With his 5-year, $30 million contract, Couture has virtually secured his place as the Sharks' VIP.
You may have heard the word "elite" being thrown around when speaking of Couture. That may be a bit premature, but looking at his success over the past few seasons, he may reach those ranks sooner than later. He has 89 goals in 232 NHL games, and if it weren't for the strike-shortened 2012-2013 season, he would have easily had a third straight year with over 30 goals (he had 21 goals when the season ended). That's quite an accomplishment for a lad of only 24 years old.
Why will Couture be successful this season?
Right Place, Right Time
Couture always seems to be in the perfect position to drop the puck into the net. And not to mention he is an absolute beast on the power play. He's the guy you want with the puck. The past two seasons San Jose has struggled to score with even numbers and have heavily relied on Couture delivering when they have a man (or two) advantage. His ability to put the puck in the back of the net during these opportunities is incredibly important to the Sharks' success in the future. His point production translated into the offseason in 2013, where he logged 5 power play goals.
Competition from the Big Pavelski
Forward Joe Pavelski followed suit in July, also signing a 5-year contract with the Sharks. His signing with the same terms as Couture, however, is a bit mind boggling. Don't misunderstand; Pavelski is an important key to San Jose's offense. He's a consistent point scorer who also could rack up 20-plus goals in a season, but he doesn't have the same shiny new surface that Couture possesses. It is unlikely Couture saw Pavelski's contract extension as a slight from the San Jose front office, but the competition could propel him to push even harder to boost his production, and therefore his rank amongst the forwards.
Speaking of boosting production, Couture was crucial in the 2013 playoffs. He had 3 game-winning goals during the postseason, and was the main reason the Sharks crushed the Vancouver Canucks in the first round. One of the biggest moments of the Sharks/Canucks series was a pair of power-play goals by Couture that came 2:27 minutes apart in the third period of Game 3. These goals put the Sharks up 5-1 and absolutely deflated Vancouver. SJSharks101 was lucky enough to attend that game, and the crowd went absolutely bananas after Couture's first goal, and nearly blew the roof off the Shark Tank after the second:
So does Couture rank amongst the NHL's cream of the crop? Perhaps not yet; his defense still needs a bit of work (a -6 plus/minus rating during this season's playoff run was the blemish on his otherwise spotless performance). And though he has the right finesse with the puck, he could use a little toughening up on the ice. How many times did you see him kissing the boards this past season?
The Sharks were smart to lock Couture up for next 5 years. Though he cannot count himself in the same company as Gretzky, Howe or Lemieux, he is well on his way, and he will be wearing teal and black when he arrives.
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