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"The trade" paying dividends
Sharks showing signs of life
12/16/05 - by Steve Flores

The San Jose Sharks have taken off since the trade that brought Joe Thornton over from the Boston Bruins. Much has been written about the trade and how well the team has played. All parties deserve kudos and the fire seems to have returned to the ice in the Shark Tank. The Sharks actually employee both of the past two 'Player of the Week' winners in the NHL.

I'm not gonna dwell on the usual cheers that the aforementioned Thornton cousin is getting from all sides. He is the current NHL Player of the Week and has been 'THE' factor in the team's turnaround. However the thing that has intrigued me the most is the play of that 'other' Player of the Week; Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau.

I have often thought and even penned on paper the belief that Marleau would only be able to tap his full potential if a player of equal talent were brought in.

That has happened. However it has not occurred in the manner in which I had always conceptualized.

I always envisioned Marleau paired, on a line, with a stud winger that would allow Marleau to work with someone on the same talented page as him.

Marleau is a player gifted with speed. He is an amazingly graceful skater and his vision and stick work is top notch. Unfortunately Marleau's game was never able to be maximized because he truly has never had anyone close to his level by his side on the ice. The funny thing is that he has finally begun to show that untapped level of promise and ability, yet he has done it without that superiorly talented wing actually on his line.

The mere presence of Thornton on the roster has given the Shark's two truly superior lines. This is the concept that I never truly envisioned as a possible impetus for Marleau's game.

The presence of Thornton has forced opposing coaches to make a decision regarding how to play their top defensive units. Prior to Thornton's arrival it was a no-brainer to key on the Marleau line. Coaches no longer have that luxury.

Marleau truly has had a great start to this season. He has not had a single bad game all year. And not having a bad game with the way this team was playing truly says something about his character. He shows up each and every night with intent and desire. He has grown into a true professional and his flair and smarts on the ice have grown along with his overall maturity.

I have often referred to the Sharks offensive Special Teams play as "The Power-Less Play". The team has truly never been a deadly force in odd-man situations until now. One of the great joys of watching the Sharks since the trade is the pure ecstasy of actually seeing Marleau and Thornton on the ice together on the Power Play. Believe me when these two fellows step on the ice the opposing bench and its fans are fully aware of what can happen.

The Sharks current Power Play is truly exciting to watch. When I see these two centers on the ice together I actually become nearly as giddy as Ebenezer Scrooge, after the haunts have left his abode on Christmas Eve.

Despite the fantastic results of the past 5 contests we need to try to keep a level head in terms of the team's play. When the team next takes the ice on Friday, against the Washington Capitals they will have had 5 days off. They are playing exciting and winning hockey but 5 games does not a season make. The efforts of the past few games are no guarantee that the streak will continue.

Win or lose the one thing I am sure of come this weekend's contest is that the Sharks Captain will show up and he will be ready to play.

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