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Sharks prepare for new season with fresh leadership

The San Jose Sharks began training camp Thursday missing a significant piece of the franchise’s last decade of history. With former team captain Joe Pavelski signing with the Dallas Stars on July 1, the team is now transitioning into a new era, with new players taking on leadership roles.

The recently named captain, Logan Couture, said on Friday:

“I actually texted [Pavelski] and said, ‘It’s going to be weird going to the rink and not seeing you there. It’s not going to be the same.’”

The Sharks announced the new group of captains on Thursday, the day before the start of the three-week long training camp. Couture was named captain, while Joe Thornton, Tomáš Hertl, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson will rotate as alternate captains.

Captain Couture

Couture seemed to be the natural choice for the next captain. He has been a Shark for 11 years and an alternate captain since 2015. The ninth-overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft has had a consistent impact on the ice, putting up a career-best 70 points last season. Hertl said:

“He’s proving on the ice how he can lead the team. He’s doing everything right on the ice … I’m super pumped about him. I think he’ll be a great leader.”

Drafted ninth overall in the 2007 NHL draft, the first line center put up a career-best 70 points last season. Couture lead the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 14 goals, despite playing six fewer less games than the second and third place finishers. In addition to being a clutch scorer, Couture’s vocalness and honesty sets him apart.

DeBoer said:

“He has the ability to stand up and be heard with a tough message when it needs to be delivered. He doesn’t talk just to talk … You can have guys that talk, but if they don’t have that honest foundation to their game and their life … then it doesn’t mean much. And that’s where his strength lies.”

Deboer also described Couture as the “prototypical lead by example” player, which was most evident in the first round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Couture proved his grit when he took a puck to the groin in Game 2, lost teeth after being high-sticked in Game 5, but still went on to score two power play goals in the Game 7 comeback win.

Couture said:

“I don’t think I’m going to change anything, it’s really just a different letter on the jersey. Here in San Jose, there’s a lot of guys that are leaders and a few guys that have been captains in the past. We’ve got a great leadership group.”

Strength in the group

The Sharks expanded their group of alternate captains, after only having two for the past three seasons. Thornton remains an alternate, joined by Burns, the newly re-signed Karlsson and Hertl. The new group has a variety of experience and personality.

DeBoer said:

“For me it’s always about the people around the guy wearing the ‘C’. they’re just as important. And we’ve got two former captains in there … I think all those guys will support Logan in his job. No leader is perfect. I think they all have strengths and weaknesses and the strength is always in the group.”

This is Thornton’s 15th consecutive year wearing a letter for San Jose. He was an alternate captain from 2005-10, captain from 2010-13 and has been an alternate again since 2014.

Thornton said:

“We’ve all been together for a long time now and I think we’ll all compliment each other. There’s five guys who are gonna wear letters, but during the course of a season you’re going to need 23 captains. So, excited for the group to come together and enjoy the ride together.”

Entering his ninth year in San Jose, Burns lead both the Sharks and NHL defenseman with 83 points last season. He also surpassed the 1,000 games played mark.

Defenseman Brenden Dillon said: 

“With a thousand games, [there’s] not many situations he hasn’t been in. For us, that speaks volumes … He’s a guy who knows our systems, he knows the personnel and has been through the ups and downs.”

Karlsson is in just his second year as a Shark after signing an eight-year, $92 million contract extension. The two-time Norris trophy winner has four seasons of experience as the captain of the Ottawa Senators.

Karlsson said:

“I think that we’ve got a lot of good leaders in this room … I don’t think wearing a letter in particular means that you’re a leader or not, there’s a lot of guys that don’t wear it throughout their whole career that are still leaders. It’s a shared responsibility and luckily we have a good group in here that can gain a lot of experiences and knowledge from each other.”

The “young” gun

Hertl is the youngest in San Jose’s new leadership. The 25-year-old is coming off of his best season of his NHL career, which had been previously hampered by injuries. Mostly playing as the second line center, he put up a career-high 74 points and 35 goals, surpassing the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.

DeBoer said:

“His development and growth trajectory has just been off the charts. He’s energetic, he’s infectious, he’s happy every day … it’s nice to be around people like that.”

Hertl said:

“I’m super honored about it. I think we got a lot of leaders here on the team, and I’m really happy Pete picked me. So I’m super pumped about it and I want to prove it, I think I proved it last year but i have to follow now every year, it can’t just be one year.”

This is the first time Hertl is officially part of a leadership group on a team. But according to Couture, he has already been filling the role behind the scenes. Couture said: 

“We do things in our room where we have leadership meetings by committee. So there’s a lot more than just guys with letters on it. So Tommy’s been involved in that for a while … I think a lot of guys in this room have considered him a leader for a bunch of years now.” 

With the new leadership in place, the Sharks have filled one of the voids left by the departure of Pavelski. However, there is an opportunity for other players to help produce Pavelski’s team-leading 38 goals last season.

Karlsson said:

“Losing Pavs is going to be a big hole to fill, the way he played and how established he was in this room … I think it’s going to be a workload that is going to be shared among different players throughout the course of the year. We’re just going to have to find a way to evolve and adapt to the players that we have in this room now.”

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