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Preview/Lines #61: DeBoer Still Believes in Labanc



Credit: Dean Tait/Hockey Shots

Pete DeBoer still has faith in Kevin Labanc.

“I think he’s still got a lot of game left,” the ex-San Jose Sharks head coach said this morning. “I think he’s still a very good player. He does things that you can’t teach from a creating offense, scoring [perspective].”

DeBoer would know. While Labanc is currently suffering the worst scoring rate of his NHL career with just seven points in 37 games, albeit with just fourth-line ice-time, the 28-year-old winger had the best season of his career under DeBoer in 2018-19.

“I had him as a young player coming into the league, right out of the American League,” DeBoer, who coached the Sharks from 2015 to 2020, and is now behind the bench for the Dallas Stars, told San Jose Hockey Now. “I found him wanting to learn to be a good pro. I thought he established himself as that in my time here. He was a big part of the last run we had to the Conference Final.”

Labanc had 17 goals and 56 points in 82 games during that year, then put up a goal and three assists in four minutes in Game Seven in the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights, to cap off one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history.

But now, the playoff hero is a frequent healthy scratch for the last-place Sharks.

“I think with all young players, especially scorers, the trajectory always isn’t straight up,” DeBoer said. “You’re gonna have down years.”

There’s also another number, and it’s not points, that Labanc has to deal with.

“Kevin’s probably a little bit of a byproduct, like a lot of players in the NHL, of what he’s making—the number attached to him—puts a negative spin on him,” DeBoer said. “A lot of pressure that isn’t helpful, but that’s part of being an NHL player.”

Labanc is now in the final year of a four-year contract, $4.725 million AAV, and the San Jose Sharks aren’t likely to offer the pending UFA a contract extension. With his large cap hit, he is not expected to be dealt before Friday’s Trade Deadline, especially when teams will have the opportunity to sign him perhaps to a one-year, “prove-it” contract this summer.

Labanc Sees Writing on the Wall for Sharks’ Career

Labanc’s former coach believes that he will be able to turn it around with a new team, adding, “He was a good teammate and a pleasure to coach when I was here.”


Dallas Stars (37-17-9)

This was the Stars’ lineup in their last game:

Per Mike Heika, Chris Tanev is still in transit, and will be a game-time decision.


Puck drop between the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars is 7:30 PM at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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