Kevin Labanc and David Quinn aren’t seeing the game the same way.
The San Jose Sharks bench boss healthy scratched the winger on Monday afternoon, a 4-3 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils.
“When he’s on his game, there’s a swagger to him. There’s an edge to him. He makes life hard on the other team. Makes good decisions,” Quinn shared before the game. “Obviously got 10 goals, which is a good season so far. But there’s a lot more in there as a player and we want a complete player.
“I just think he’s lost his way just a little bit.”
Labanc, who’s sixth on the Sharks with 25 points, pushed back on this critique after practice today: “Just the things that you see on Twitter, I lost my swagger. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve been playing some good hockey. I feel like I’m healthy. I’m back to playing the way that I normally play.”
The 27-year-old winger missed most of last year with a season-ending shoulder injury and struggled at the beginning of this campaign.
“From some of the conversations we’ve had, he feels like he’s playing a little bit better than we do,” Quinn confirmed. “It’s the player valuing everything that we value, I guess, is really what it comes down to from an individual standpoint.
“This is no different than most players, a lot of players have that approach. And you’re always kind of always trying to get everybody seeing the game in the same light.”
Both Labanc and Quinn noted that the lines of communication are open between player and coaching staff, which includes assistant coaches Scott Gordon, Brian Wiseman, and Ryan Warsofsky. Labanc stressed that he has a good relationship with all the coaches and likes them all.
“I did a little bit of video, saw, trying to get an idea of what they’re seeing and what I’m seeing,” Labanc disclosed. “It’s kind of more of a discussion and collaboration of what I was seeing in that situation, what they were seeing, what they want. Then what I was giving them, what that result was.”
Neither party wanted to elaborate too specifically about their differences.
“It’s just, situations, things that we’re looking for. He points to his 10 goals, as he should. He’s got 10 goals and he can score goals. Nobody’s disputing that,” Quinn offered, before stressing. “And we’re gonna need more from everybody other than just doing things offensively.”
Just last week, Quinn sat Labanc for half a period in Arizona because of a defensive gaffe. Quinn and Labanc did see eye to eye on this error.
“I think that Arizona play was a mistake,” Labanc admitted. “It’s a one-off for me, it doesn’t happen too often. So that’s what I see from that.”
“That’s the beauty of this sport, right? It’s a very subjective game,” the coach pointed out. “But right now, he’s put himself in this position, and there was plenty of talk and clarity on what we’re looking for. And sometimes, players don’t 100 percent agree with it, but that’s the sport we’re in.
“Listen, I get your viewpoint. But this is how we need things done.”
“Once you’re losing, nobody’s in the right, I think,” Labanc mused. “There’s always going to be somebody that’s doing something wrong. Whether it’s me, it’s everybody in the locker room, we’re all accountable.”
Whatever the disagreement, Quinn isn’t holding it against Labanc. After a one-game layoff, he’ll be back in the line-up tomorrow night against the Dallas Stars.
“Listen, he’s a good player,” Quinn emphasized. “He’s gonna be back in there and he’s gonna be an effective player for us.”
For what it’s worth though, Labanc is the only San Jose Sharks player among the team’s top-12 scoring to get healthy scratched this year. Does the playmaker feel singled out?
“I don’t think so. I don’t even know,” Labanc replied. “I just come to work, if I’m in the line-up, work my ass off. Make sure I’m out there doing what I can to help the team win. If not, be a good teammate and support the guys that are [playing].”
They may not agree on all the details, but Quinn and Labanc want to paint the same big picture.
“We’re close to [winning more games],” Quinn said. “We want to win hockey games. He wants to win hockey games.”
Labanc has no dispute with that: “When we’re not winning, it’s just frustrating for everyone.”
Jan. 18 UPDATE:
Quinn, on sitting Labanc again: "Noah played well…The plan was to put Kevin back in, but just the way things went the other night, I just liked what I saw from all 12 forwards.
He had a "good talk" with Labanc today: "There's clarity of where he's at. He's gonna get back in."
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 18, 2023
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