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Exit Interview: Is 32-Year-Old Couture Still in His Prime?

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Is Logan Couture, 32, still in his prime?

That’s what San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson claimed during his exit interview on Wednesday. Of course, that comment drew its share of criticism.

Of course, Wilson’s opinion flies in the face of both new-school research and even old-school thinking.

I’m not going to wade too deep into the conversation, but a couple thoughts: Couture, before being slowed by slump and/or injury this year, was enjoying a terrific start. Through Mar. 26, he was actually second in the NHL with 11 5-on-5 goals, tied with Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Tyler Toffoli, and Joel Farabee, only behind Mikko Rantanen’s 14.

Striking Stats: Where Burns & Karlsson Are Lagging, Couture’s Comeback Season | SJHN+

Also, it’s worth noting that when pundits talk about a player’s prime, there might be too much emphasis on the physical prime. What about his mental prime? There’s no doubt that players can more than compensate for some diminishment of their physical abilities with hockey smarts. Personally, I think there’s some sweet spot where a player retains enough of his youthful physical skills and combines that with experiential hockey smarts – I might call that a player’s prime.

But I digress: In Couture’s Thursday exit interview, the San Jose Sharks captain talks about his season, the mental strain from this year, and the COVID restrictions that players must follow even out of season.

Couture, on if he feels like he’s still in his prime:

The start of the year this year, that’s the best I felt in a long time. But throughout the year, obviously this was a difficult season, played a lot of games in very few days. The way that I play, I’m going to get hit, I’m going to block shots. So it started to wear at me at the end, mentally, took a toll for sure as well.

But I still have that drive to get better and I know that my game can get to another level. I struggled at times this year, individually. There’s a stretch through the middle of the season where I didn’t play well. And that was difficult.

I want to help our team every single night, I want to be a player that helps us win. We didn’t do enough of the winning this season. So I take that personally.

Couture, on what culture changes to San Jose Sharks locker room this year feel permanent:

I think just playing for each other. I think we improved in that. There’s still ways to go. I say that, again, because we missed the playoffs.

Right now, it’s still raw. Our season just ended.

My plan is to take a few weeks and try and forget about hockey as much as I possibly can, not turn the TV on. [Then] kind of reassess the season as a whole, go over everything from start to finish, personally, and as a team. Like I said, there’s stuff that I’m proud of that we did as a group, but there’s certainly room for improvement.

Couture, on the mental strain of this season:

I think this has been the most mentally draining season that I think I’ve gone through. I think a lot of guys in the NHL will say the same thing to you.

I want to put it in perspective, we’re playing a game, right? We’re very, very lucky to do what we do, play in the NHL, but the circumstances surrounding this season were very difficult.

I think going into the season, I don’t know if a lot of us really understood how tough it would be. I think a lot of guys were under the impression that the restrictions would be lifted at some point, but that wasn’t the case.

It’s tough when you’re just going to the rink, you’re going home, you’re not allowed to see friends and family from out of town. So need to see some people that I haven’t seen in a long time. We’re social people, human beings are social. So good to see some people that I haven’t seen in a while.

Couture, on the COVID safety protocol that San Jose Sharks players still have to adhere to even out of season:

For us now, it all depends where we’re going to spend time. Some of us that stay in San Jose, there’ll be rules if we use the team facility. I think there’ll be two separate groups, vaccinated people and players and non-vaccinated players that we won’t be able to, I believe, work out together with. I’d have to read through all of [the requirements]. But as of now, that’s all I know.

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