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Labanc Sees Writing on the Wall for Sharks’ Career



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Kevin Labanc has been a healthy scratch for the San Jose Sharks for seven straight games and counting.

For a player who’s averaged 0.52 Points Per Game from 2017 to 2023, capped off by a career-high 56 points in 2018-19, it has been a tough adjustment to make. He last played on Jan. 16 in Chicago.

“You just work hard and control what you can control,” the 28-year-old winger, who has just seven points in 32 games, said.

Labanc has never found himself in a situation like this throughout his eight-year NHL career.

Even last year, he managed 15 goals and enjoyed a 23-points-in-29-games stretch when he was playing with Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier.

But he has not been able to get things going even though San Jose is knee-deep into a rebuild, averaging just 11:46 a night.

“I know that I’m not playing, but I know what I’m capable of when I do get out there on the ice,” Labanc said defiantly yesterday. “I still feel good and I know when I get an opportunity, I can go out there and execute.”

Labanc on His Struggles: ‘I still have a lot of confidence’

But San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn believes those “opportunities” are not reserved for just games.

“We watch every practice,” Quinn said. “And it’s funny, people talk about needing an opportunity, well, everyday is an opportunity.

“I’m not out there making my grocery list while practice is going on. I’ve been paying attention to what guys are doing, how hard they’re working, and if they are doing what they are supposed to do. That’s all part of the equation.

“You are getting evaluated based on everything you do, and that holds true to every player.”

Quinn noted that he and Labanc spoke before the break about his expectations. The San Jose Sharks have had four practices since coming back from the break, which Quinn has considered up-and-down for the embattled winger.

“He had a better day today than yesterday,” Quinn said tersely, when asked on Monday about how Labanc is practicing.

Labanc will sit out again tonight in the San Jose Sharks’ return to action against the Winnipeg Jets.

“We think we have 12 [forwards] who have played better than him,” Quinn said on Tuesday.

For the pending UFA, the writing appears to be on the wall for his future with the San Jose Sharks. A Trade Deadline deal will be a challenge though, because he’s an expensive ($4.725 million AAV) and unproductive (this year) offense-first winger. Also, the Sharks have just one remaining salary retention slot, and other more in-demand trade candidates in line for it.

He’s more likely a buy-low bounceback candidate this off-season.

The skilled winger is taking it all in stride. After all, his name has been a constant in trade rumors in each of the last four seasons, at least.

“It’s just an understanding of, [if] it’s not working here, maybe go somewhere else and get a fresh start of it,” Labanc said. “Maybe when you were younger, you thought you’d be with the same team for your whole career, but that’s not necessarily the case. Not everyone can be Marc-Edouard Vlasic or Logan Couture or Tomas Hertl.”

Source: Labanc “Available for Right Price” | SJHN+


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