A tough season for Kevin Labanc is going to get tougher.
This morning, San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner announced that Labanc would be a healthy scratch tonight versus the Calgary Flames.
This will be the seventh game that Labanc has missed in this young season: The winger missed five games in November because he was in COVID protocol, and after slew-footing Tyler Bozak on Nov. 18, he was suspended for the next game against the Capitals.
“He needs to be better,” Boughner declared. “It’s a coach’s decision. It’s not an injury.”
A former 50-point scorer, Labanc has just six points in 19 appearances so far this season. The winger has mostly played on the third and fourth lines, though he’s also been a power play regular.
“I don’t blame his linemates. You got to take personal accountability for your own game. It’s time to just be better. Find your A-game,” Boughner said, when asked about Labanc’s chemistry with a Nick Bonino or a Jasper Weatherby, his most frequent centermen this year.
“We want to play a certain way. That has to be every guy in that room. It’s got to be consistent game after game after game. If I had to label one thing, it’s the consistency in the game.”
This isn’t the first time that Boughner has asked for a lot more from Labanc this season.
He said on Nov. 15: “We’re looking for his five-on-five game to step up. I briefly talked to him this morning about needing a little more urgency and a little more puck possession as an offensive player. You want to see him spending time in the offensive zone, getting three or four good looks a game. Not just waiting for special teams, to get out to the power play, to make a difference.”
The San Jose Sharks bench boss also pointed out that the coaching staff had talked to Labanc about his game during the road trip.
“We sat down with him a couple games ago and went through some shift tape and everything else,” Boughner shared. “So I think he understands where we’re coming from.”
If the 26-year-old did get it, he didn’t show enough of it to Boughner to close out the road trip. So now, the San Jose Sharks’ fourth-highest paid forward will be sitting in the press box. Labanc is signed for two more years after this season at $4.725 million dollars per.
Can Labanc turn things around so he’s not another Doug Wilson long-term contract disaster? The season is young and the playmaker’s talent is indisputable.
“It’s just up to him now,” Boughner said. “He’s got to find it.”
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