Joe Thornton will be missed, but the San Jose Sharks are ready for their next wave of leadership, starting with captain Logan Couture.
"We're blessed to have guys like that that have left their mark on this team, but it's time for the new group to step up and that's not just Logan," Sharks coach Bob Boughner said Wednesday. "We have a great group of young guys. Yes, there's [Brent] Burns and [Erik] Karlsson, but it's the Tommy Hertls and Timo Meiers, the next wave of guys underneath.
"That's one of the most important things I can do as a head coach this year. Obviously, you're going to miss Jumbo, but it's a way to pass the torch on to other guys."
The Sharks' new leadership group faces a unique challenge after missing the playoffs last season (29-36-5, .450 points percentage) for the first time since 2015. The Sharks open training camp on Dec. 31 in Scottsdale, Arizona, because current health restrictions related to COVID-19 in Santa Clara County, California, include a ban on contact sports.
"If you had asked me last season what this team probably could have used from a chemistry standpoint, from a culture standpoint, I would have said, a training camp where we all get away together and have no distractions," Boughner said. "And probably a good long road trip to start the season. Maybe this is a little more than I wished for. I think it's going to be a good thing for us. I think we really need to spend some time together."
Couture was named the 10th captain in Sharks history on Sept. 12, 2019, replacing Joe Pavelski, who signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars on July 1 of that year.
Thornton signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 15. The 41-year-old scored 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in 70 games with the Sharks last season, his 15th with them.