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The Captain and the Coach
Will Marleau remain a Shark?
2/15/08 - By Steve Flores

At this moment we are less than two weeks from the NHL trade deadline. By all reports the San Jose Sharks are in the market for a top-flight, puck-moving defenseman. Rumor eked out of the Canadian capital that the Sharks had, once again, inquired about Wade Redden. Redden is in the final year of his contract with the Senators. Redden once again declined to waive the no trade clause which is part of his contract. Rumor also has it that Patrick Marleau was not part of that trade talk.

But let me tell you with the deadline looming his name will come up plenty folks.

The entire Marleau 'situation' is sad, frustrating, head shaking and simply downright bad. The Sharks Captain is a stand up guy. He is born of the franchise and has been in the Bay Area since he was drafted back in 1997 when he was the second overall pick (chosen behind Joe Thornton).

We have watched him grow from a shy kid into an NHL All-Star. He is an exciting and unselfish player who has more flash in his repertoire than anyone else on the roster. Now I know some of you folks dissect every single word in a column so let me be clear here. I said flash as in style, flair, excitement, speed etc. I am not saying he is the team's best player. Obviously that Thornton guy is pretty good.

What I am saying is that if the team has reached a point where they feel the need to trade such a talented player maybe they better stop and figure just why and how it has come to this.

Unless Marleau has some injury (prior to the reported groin injury incurred in the Calgary game) then his awful numbers this season have to be a reflection of something else. I will quit bandying about; a lot of us feel that Marleau's issues go back to last year's playoffs where his play was less than stellar. In fact he was downright bad.

At that point Head Coach Ron Wilson went verbal and stated "If I had to do it all over again, I'd have a different set of guys on the ice. And, unfortunately, I can only say that in hindsight." he continued on with "You're supposed to be able to trust people who have been playing in the league 8, 9, 10 years. And I probably learned a lesson going forward." Unless you live under that proverbial rock you are aware that Marleau was one of the players that these comments were aimed upon.

Marleau is by all reports a soft-spoken, calm, very even-keeled person. Some people respond to certain forms of pressure such as being publicly challenged and some, apparently like Marleau go the other way.

I have watched hockey for years. I have seen Mike Keenan rip a ton of players. Many responded with results. Others crumbled and their careers ended. Some of you may say that's the way the puck rolls. If so then that's your belief. People are different. Some respond to some forms of stimuli and some to other types. All I am saying is there isn't necessarily a right and wrong, just that different approaches may be necessary. It appears to me that Wilson's choice of action towards Marleau was far more detrimental to both Marleau and the team. That was his choice. He gets paid to make those types of decisions.

The point that bothers me is that this friction between captain and coach is, perhaps, what has had Marleau in his season long offensive slumber. Until last years playoff debacle he was 'the Golden Child'. He has been San Jose's best playoff performer with post season hat tricks, great passing, physical presence and on ice leadership. No, he doesn't yell and scream like Mark Messier. His leadership is displayed on the ice. He has abilities that people are born with. He possesses abilities that can't be taught; speed, quick hands, great skater. The possibility that he could be dealt because of an issue with a coach (a guy who doesn't play by the way) is frustrating and infuriating.

It would be different if Marleau was a problem child a la Pac Man Jones or as arrogant as Barry Bonds but he's not. He's a solid person with a world of ability. Honestly people, Wade Redden is a good hockey player but does he offer the team anywhere near as much as a healthy, inspired Patrick Marleau can offer? NO!

As usual some of you will see things the way you want and you are entitled but from my point of view I hope that something can be done to figure out what the problem is with Marleau - be it the coach or whatever else it could be because if we don't we could be watching him score 80 to 100 points in Ottawa or Montreal and that doesn't help the Sharks one bit.

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