Logan Couture’s season can be summed up with one very simple phrase: he was healthy. For the first time since 2014-15, Couture played all 82 games for the Sharks. That health is something that San Jose’s coaching staff relied upon throughout the year.
Couture ranked second on the team in ice time. That’s more than every defenseman not named Erik Karlsson. Couture logged 1568:46 minutes and was used in all situations. He led all forwards in offensive zone starts, neutral zone starts and defensive zone starts. In other words, it didn’t matter what the situation was, the coaching staff was happy to put Couture on the ice.
Couture’s 2022-23 production
As a result, Couture had his most productive season since 2018-19, the season that the Sharks made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
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In his 82 games played this season, Couture registered 67 points (27 G, 40 A).
He tied for 67th in the league in points, which isn’t bad for a guy playing on a team that finished with the fourth worst record in the NHL.
One of the keys to Couture’s success this season is that there was a little more stability in who he played with. He could reliably count on seeing Alexander Barabanov on his wing. In even strength play this season, if Couture was on the ice, you could count on seeing Barabanov out there with him.
Couture’s other linemates also helped contribute to the forward’s performance this season. Couture spent considerable time at 5-on-5 with the likes of Matt Nieto, Michael Eyssimont and Timo Meier. That’s a step up from the 2021-22 season when Couture spent most of his time centering lines that included Jonathan Dahlen, Nick Bonino, Noah Gregor and Rudolfs Balcers.
For Couture, consistency in the form of Barabanov and better quality talent on the wing (think Eyssimont and Meier) helped ensure that the center had the best season in the past four years.
*Quick props to JD Young for predicting how Couture’s season would go: “If Couture is surrounded by young talent, he could be looking at a 25-goal season with another 40 assists on top of it.”
Other aspects of Couture’s game
While Couture excelled offensively, defensively, things could have gone better.
A preface before I show you Couture’s Evolving-Hockey player card. Couture’s defensive zone results are not solely the result of his play. The player review of Kaapo Kahkonen and the future review of James Reimer show that San Jose received below league average goaltending. It’s hard to expect players to excel if they do not receive similar help from their netminders.
Couture’s player card shows that at even strength, he actually scored more goals than he was expected to. You can see that his goals above replacement (GAR) was approximately a point higher than his expected goals above replacement (xGAR).
On defense, however, he underperformed compared to other forwards with similar team roles. This dragged down his value to the team dramatically.
That’s not to say that Couture was bad on defense. He did what he could. He blocked 70 shots and had 71 takeaways to his 35 giveaways.
However, he also had the toughest assignments. Couture was often asked to line up against the top line on any given team and he did not always hold his own. It hindered his ability to drive the play on the ice.
So much so that it turned a great offensive season into a so-so overall season for Couture.
Couture’s future with the Sharks
Couture is 34, with an $8 million cap hit through 2026-27. The Athletic’s Shayna Goldman and Dom Luszczyszyn created player cards for most of the NHL’s players, including Couture. According to them, his market value this season was approximately $7.7 million, close to his actual contract cost.
Here’s the problem for Sharks fans. Given similar linemates next season, it’s reasonable to believe Couture will perform at the level that he did this season. It’s the seasons following that where it will be difficult to expect the same production level.
To maintain that level of performance moving forward, considerable minutes will need to be taken off of Couture’s plate. He turns 35 next season. He cannot be expected to carry the same workload when he’s 36 or 37.
If the Sharks want to get the best value out of Couture’s contract until it expires in 2026-27, the team will have to find other, younger players to rely on. The team needs to take minutes off Couture’s plate.
The Sharks will have to ride out this contract. A buyout would only prolong the team’s cap conundrum. A trade would be difficult.
Couture’s contract contains a modified no trade clause (NTC), which allows him to submit a list of three teams he’s willing to be traded to at the start of each season. It’s hard to envision Couture’s value going up over the next three seasons. Which means moving a contract with an $8 million AAV for a player that’s likely worth much less than that would not be easy unless San Jose is willing to add a pot sweetener in the form of a top prospect or a high draft pick.
The only future for the Sharks at the moment is Couture in teal until his contract expires.
Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we will be rolling out the player reviews for the San Jose Sharks. We realize there were a lot of guys rotating into and out of the lineup and some of the key depth players were traded. As a result, Fear the Fin plans to focus on the players that are 1) still with the Sharks and 2) played 20 or more games for San Jose this season.