Yanni Gourde took to the ice on Thursday with a figurative drum he intended to bang loudly.
It was vocal, and it was physical. He whooped after a successful drill. He muttered a groan after a broken drill. He fought (playfully) Will Borgen as both players flashed a good-natured smile.
“We were battling one another, and he kept winning,” said Gourde. “All for fun.”
Generally speaking, it was hard to miss Yanni Gourde. All day on Thursday at Kraken Community Iceplex before an open house practice to fans in attendance, the alternate captain helped guide the Kraken through a spirited, animated, and physically demanding session intended to keep preparations in check for when the team finally returns next Monday to start a three-game road trip at Colorado.
“I feel there’s more positivity,” said forward Ryan Donato. “Guys have a lot more energy, I think it’s been a good thing for us.”
Look no further than a source of that energy than Gourde, skating Thursday again with Calle Jarnkrok and Colin Blackwell, and ascending into a valuable role this season with the Kraken after winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles while playing in Tampa Bay as a part of a loaded forward corps including Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.
In the absence of forward Brandon Tanev, undisputed crowd favorite and Kraken energy lightning rod but lost for the season with an ACL injury, Gourde’s energy translates into a premium, valuable ingredient.
The Kraken returned with from the holiday break for the first time without Tanev, who crashed into the boards against Edmonton on December 18 and was never seen again. But head coach Dave Hakstol said Gourde’s energy goes beyond the two weeks of roster uncertainty – also currently holding Jeremy Lauzon and Alex Wennberg in COVID protocol – and a week off from games.
“It’s every day, not just since the break with Yanni,” said Hakstol. “Every day he’s on the ice – the life that he brings, the competitive level that he brings, he’s a guy who loves working extra on his game. That drags extra guys along with him. That same life and energy is the same off the ice as well.”
“Very important, and teammates love that side of him.”
Gourde’s philosophy carried a direct, assertive, and confident tone.
“You’ve got to enjoy practice,” said Gourde, tied for third on the Kraken with 19 points in 25 games. “You’ve got to enjoy competing. If you don’t enjoy doing that, I mean, I don’t know what you do at this level. That’s the grind. If you love the grind, you’re going to get further and you’re going to get better. I love doing that.”
As Gourde helped lead participation through forechecking drills, end zone faceoffs, six-on-five “extra attacker” situations and even a spirited “stop and start” drill that required as much grit, gristle, and perseverance as running through a mud pit, he stands with a noticeable boost in metrics in Tanev’s absence, since the first day of practice back when Gourde said the Kraken need “everybody to step in”:
- Most time on ice, any forward (58:46)
- 2nd, most hits (8)
- 2nd, most face-off wins (15)
- Tied 2nd, Points (3) – only Calle Jarnkrok’s five point run in three games is better
- 3rd, individual scoring chances (5)*
(* Courtesy naturalstattrick.com)
Gourde delivered another passionate statement on the precise starting point of where the Kraken build their habits from:
Yes, we’re talking about practice.
“I think that’s where it starts,” said Gourde. “You want to get better as a team, you have to practice better and have better practice habits. Do right things in practice so it translates into games.”
“Be more intense. Bring the level a little bit higher. It starts there.”
By next Monday, the Kraken aim to take that talk and action to a new level.
Kraken practice lineup, Jan. 6: