- Editor's note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California's Sharks coverage for the 2021-22 season. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at Sheng_Peng.
How has Logan Couture's game evolved over the years?
Not a lot -- and that's a compliment.
"Has he improved?" head coach Bob Boughner, who was on Peter DeBoer's Sharks staff in 2015-16, mused. "He's always been such a good hockey player, a smart hockey player."
James Reimer, Couture's teammate in 2015-16, agreed: "This is probably the highest comment you can have, I feel like his game has been pretty steady. He plays the game the right way."
"He's a very efficient player," long-time rival and first-year teammate Andrew Cogliano observed. "I don't think he wastes a lot of energy in terms of doing things that get him out of position. Very smart."
Call him Logan Metronome. Not bad for a 32-year-old entering his 13th season with the Sharks.
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"It's how I try and play," Couture said, "I try and play the same game every single night."
At the end of last season, after Couture scored just nine points in 29 games to close the year, Sharks GM Doug Wilson drew some ridicule when he suggested that the 32-year-old was still in his prime.
"Logan’s 32 — 32 for a guy that takes care of himself is often the prime of his career," Wilson offered.
And Couture certainly looked like that guy to start the 2020-21 campaign. Two-and-a-half months into the shortened season, Couture was tied for 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.
"The start of the year this year, that’s the best I felt in a long time," Couture said in his exit interview. "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."
Couture hates talking about his own injuries, but every indication was that he was playing through something at the end of last year.
A new season has brought back the dependable Couture, who has 18 points in 20 games.
"He looks healthy, he looks strong. I think he's got that jump back in his step," Boughner said. "He hasn't lost a step in my mind. He's still as effective, if not more so."
Couture's consistency isn't just critical to himself. It's also made his teammates better.
"He's very consistent," Timo Meier noted. "Even if he's not scoring or producing, he's a guy that really plays the same way. Doesn't matter what the circumstances are."
Meier is as good a witness to this as anybody. The 25-year-old winger is off to the best start of his career with 20 points in 16 contests. His 1.25 points per game are tied for sixth-best in the NHL. His center from Day 1 of training camp? The veteran Couture, entering his 13th season with the Sharks.
"Timo sees now he's playing with one of the best two-way centers in the league. I think that helps his game," Boughner offered. "Timo, as offensive as he's been all year, his details defensively, not exposing pucks, winning board battles, and stopping his feet in our own zone, all the things we talked about, it rubs off on him."
Cogliano added, "That's a great quality to have as a player when you can make other people better."
Meier, who's endured consecutive up-and-down years, is having the season of his life. Obviously, it's Meier's effort and talent that deserves the lion's share of the credit for that. But playing with Mr. Reliable can't hurt.
Patience is something Meier says he has learned from Couture.
"We barely see him get frustrated out there," Meier noted. "Even if things might not go his way, he sticks with it, he competes. He goes out there and lays his body out every game on the line. He does that every game."
"I think Cooch is a great role model for him," Boughner said. "A good example of how to be a complete hockey player."
Cogliano put down the bottom line: "He's a guy you need on your team to win games.
Boughner did figure out an area of the game where Couture has improved: The centerman's faceoff winning percentage has risen from 44.0 in 2019-20 to 49.3 last season to 53.1 now. That was an area that Couture said last year that he has worked hard to improve.
So don't take Couture's consistency as a sign that he's resting on his laurels. He's doing everything he can to stave off the inevitable.
"Time and age is undefeated, it's always gonna win out," Couture said. "But as of now, I feel pretty good."