ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang caught up with San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture during a five-game road trip. He talks about the Sharks' roller coaster season, his progression as a goal scorer and his team's unsung hero in this week's edition of the New York Minute.
STRANG: Do you think people can truly appreciate how tough it is out West right now with teams like the Blackhawks and the Ducks and everything so tight in the standings?
COUTURE: I know people who play in the West realize how tough it is out here. Every night is a battle. You look at even the bottom teams and they have as close to as many points as the rest of the pack. There are no free points out there. It's tight-checking, goalies are really good on this side, teams are playing hard every single night. It's a battle. I know playing out here we all realize that.
STRANG: You guys got off to such a hot start, then had some difficulty in February. How do you explain the highs and lows for this team in what is a pretty atypical season because of the lockout?
COUTURE: Our season [has] been a roller coaster, obviously, winning the first seven and losing the next seven. It's been tough. We've got to stay consistent this year and that's one of the reasons we're not in a playoff spot right now. We need to find ways to be consistent and figure out ways to get points. We've been getting to a lot of overtime games and giving up that second point in overtime, losing in overtime or in the shootout, so that's also tough. Points are so tough to come by now, we have to figure out what we have to do to get them every single night.
STRANG: If there was one area you could identify or pinpoint as a necessity to improve, what would it be?
COUTURE: I think just to get everything going on the same night. Our goaltending has been terrific all year, but as of late we've been giving up some goals. At the start of the year, everything was going. Our power play was clicking and now it seems like we'll get one and everything else will disappear. And that needs to change as well to put a couple of wins together.
STRANG: You had a great rookie season but how has your game evolved and your role changed since when you first broke into the league?
COUTURE: I think I've become a better player. I think all-around, my game has become better. It's weird. Before I came into the NHL, I wasn't really a goal scorer. I was always a pass-first guy but since I've played in this league with guys that are more pass-first guys, like Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe, that's really changed my role into becoming a goal scorer. I'm trying to take a little bit more of a leadership role now. It's my fourth year with this team and I think I can play an important part on the team.
STRANG: Is there a guy on your team who slips under the radar sometimes or maybe doesn't get the acclaim he deserves and really makes the team go?
COUTURE: He is a star, but I love seeing Dan Boyle playing. Boyler's 36 now and some people may have written him off, but watching him play he's so smooth and so good with the puck. Just in talking to other guys around the West, they say they still love watching Dan Boyle skating and moving the puck, so I think Boyler's a treat to watch every single night.
STRANG: You're a big Buffalo Bills fan, right?
COUTURE: Huge. Huge bills fan.
STRANG: What did you think of them releasing [quarterback] Ryan Fitzpatrick?
COUTURE: It's hard to say. I was actually with [Bills receiver] Stevie Johnson [Saturday] night. I know him a little bit and got him tickets to our game in L.A. and we were talking about that. He was as surprised as I was. We really don't know the direction they are going to go in or if they're going to draft a quarterback. It'll be interesting.
STRANG: Between that and the phone call debacle with the GM, they've been quite a fun team to keep an eye on lately ...
COUTURE: Ha. Not that much fun as a fan.
STRANG: Good point. Hopefully for you Bills fans, things get better in free agency. Thanks for doing this.
COUTURE: No problem.