The Continued Playoff Plight of Patrick Marleau

NHLHS writer David Strehle takes a look at the San Jose Sharks’ playoff failures and the continued blame being placed on former captain Patrick Marleau.

Perhaps the saying that “You don’t truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone” may end up applying to San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau.

Despite stepping up his goal-scoring over the past few years and netting a career-high 44 this past season, whispers continue that the longest-serving player in team history may be on his way out of town if San Jose once again flops in this year’s playoffs.

Entering the postseason, the list of important regular season categories that Marleau leads in Sharks history is impressive:  games played (953);  goals (320);  assists (373),  points (693);  power play goals (97);  game-winning goals (59).

Marleau has done the same in the postseason:  games played (94);  goals (37);  points (63);  power play goals (10);  game-winning goals (10).  He is also second only to helper-machine Joe Thornton in all-time San Jose playoff assists (Thornton has 31, Marleau 26).

Noticing the mention of Thornton, whose 31 postseason assists are best in Sharks franchise history, may make one think that he is a playoff performer.  Guess again.  However, he is another article for another time.

Marleau has been with the Sharks since the 1997-98 season, and other than a trip to the 2004 Western Conference Finals (loss to the Calgary Flames), the team has not made it past the second round during that time.

And maybe some of the blame he gets for the continued San Jose playoff failures is just that he has been there the longest.

With Marleau, you have to take into consideration his age and contract.

His two-year contract extension, at $6.3 million annually, expires at the end of this year’s playoffs and Marleau becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Talk surrounding the 30-year-old center that relinquished his captaincy after the 2008-09 season continues.

After losing game one to their first round opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, former teammate Jeremy Roenick blasted Marleau on a Toronto radio station.

Roenick, well-known in hockey circles for yapping about anything that anyone will listen to, questioned Marleau’s leadership.

When’s Patty Marleau gonna come out and hit somebody in a playoff game? When is he gonna come out and start showing why he was so good in the regular season?  Not just scoring goals, but playing physical and being emotional in a playoff round.  Look at the way Shane Doan came out in Game 1 against Detroit.  He hit everything that he could possibly get his hands on to show his team how they need to play.  When is Patrick Marleau going to do that in a playoff round?”

I would not sign Patrick Marleau again if they did not get past this round and he falls short of being anything but spectacular.  He’s been there too long and they have not won with him there, they need to go out and try to do something different.  Patrick Marleau is a guy that you can dispose of and get some good people for.”

Roenick was an avid and ardent supporter of Marleau’s during his stint in San Jose.  But then again, what player wanting to be known as a “good team guy” would come out vocally against his then-captain?

And Roenick’s rant brings to mind another question.  Are there other players in the room that feel the same way, but cannot voice their opinion right now?

If Marleau does end up moving on, it will be interesting to hear the reactions from players such as Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, and Ryane Clowe, as well as coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson.

Marleau did manage a goal and two assists in the six-game series win over the Avs, while finishing a -2 in the plus / minus ratings.

But the real damage done against the Avalanche was mainly by gritty Sharks forwards Pavelski (five goals, eight points, +6), Clowe (goal, eight points, +6), and Setoguchi (three goals, six points, +4).

Coincidentally, Thornton finished the series with no goals and three assists, while recording a -4, and Dany Heatley ended up with no goals, four assists, and a -1.

Maybe the bigger test for not only Marleau, but the entire San Jose organization, will be their round two opponent, the Detroit Red Wings.

The Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Finals the past two years (winning one Cup), Detroit will not be over-matched the way Colorado was by the Sharks in the first round.

How will Marleau respond to the added pressure?

Yes, this season Marleau provided exquisite numbers from an offensive perspective, but in the ever changing era of this new NHL, questions surround the man most known in Sharks territory.

And a decision on whether to make a strong attempt to re-sign Marleau will have to be made depending on how well he and the Sharks close out the postseason.

Do not think for a second that the upcoming series against the Red Wings will not be used as a huge measuring stick for GM Wilson.

Whether or not Marleau passes the test could determine if he will maintain a residence in sunny southern California or be on the move elsewhere as an UFA signing.

David Strehle
NHLHS Flyers Correspondent / NHL Writer
Twitter: @PhilaDAVEia