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Roenick flaps his gums, but he's right...sort of
Marleau needs to produce to shut up his former teammate
5/9/11 - By Mike Lee -

Former Sharks forward and current Versus analyst Jeremy Roenick struck a nerve on Sunday night. Following the Sharks 3rd period collapse in Game 5 of their Western Conference Semi Final game with the Detroit Red Wings, Roenick called current Sharks forward Patrick Marleau "gutless." Roenick was commenting on Marleau's performance during the playoffs, and were incited by Marleau's play that led to Tomas Holmstrom's game-winning goal in Game 5. Two years removed from his playing days, Roenick is still finding a way to stir things up in the NHL.

Roenick's comments set off a firestorm from Sharks fans and several people close to the club. He added fuel to the fire in an interview with David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News.

"I am a huge Sharks fan," said Roenick, whose last two NHL seasons were with the Sharks. "I am a huge Doug Wilson fan. I think Doug Wilson has stepped to the plate and been very loyal to people, including to Patrick Marleau. And I'm going to call things the way I see them. This is not a personal attack. It's my job to speak my mind. People can say whatever they want. I want the Sharks to win the Stanley Cup someday. I think the fans deserve it. I think Doug Wilson deserves it. But when you're in a position to close out your arch-rival, I think you need a better effort. I don't think it was there and I stand by what I said."

Roenick didn't stop there.

"This is totally on the record," he said. "I am not a Patrick Marleau fan. I'm not going to pretend to be. But I also will tell you that he is an incredible, incredible talent. I wish I had the talent he has. If I had the talent Patrick Marleau has, I wouldn't even know what I could have done. But I have my opinion of his determination and effort level, especially with the amount of money that he makes. I respect people's opinions, but I have one, too. I really feel that the San Jose Sharks, the fans, and Doug Wilson deserve a better effort than they have gotten on a lot of nights in this series. And I have the ability to say that. This is not an act. This is me speaking my mind. Patrick Marleau has a lot of fans. I just happen to be not one of them."

My first reaction on Sunday night when I heard Roenick's on-air comments was that the comments were off-the-cuff remarks that weren't well thought out. You'll rarely see Roenick's mouth in a static state. He tends to shoot from the hip with just about everything he says, and his emotions can get the best of him. Sunday night was different.

Roenick was taking a fellow player to task for what he perceived to be a performance unworthy of playoff greatness. He seemed to be calling Marleau out because he felt that Marleau was letting his teammates down. He was saying that Marleau was letting the fraternity down.

What seems to be setting Sharks fans off is the fact that Roenick focused his ire on a Sharks player. You air your internal dirty laundry in house, not for all the world to see. Some Shark fans feel that San Jose resurrected Roenick's career, and that he's repaying them with mud-slinging hate targeted at one of the most beloved Shark players of all time.

Problem is, Roenick is right, partially.

This isn't the first time Marleau has gone through a public flogging. The fans themselves were armed with pitch forks and torches three years ago when Marleau was the centerpiece of the Sharks playoff failings. He responded with a valiant performance last spring, and was actually one of the only contributor's in San Jose's embarrassing first round exit against Anaheim in 2009.

This spring, Marleau has let his teammates carry him. After leading San Jose in scoring during the regular season, Marleau has scored a paltry 2 goals in 11 playoff games this spring. His struggles came to a head on Sunday night when Pavel Datsyuk stripped Marleau of the puck in the Sharks zone, then setup the game winning goal seconds later.

You can't will guys to score, but the Sharks have stressed defensive responsibility since training camp started last September. Marleau was just flat out beat by a really good player on Sunday, but good players are the people you expect to shine come playoff time. Marleau tends to disappear in the playoffs, and this season has been no different.

Now, all of this has been magnified by the fact that the Sharks have been beaten in two straight games after jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the series. If San Jose wins on Tuesday night, most of this will be water under the bridge. If Marleau is concerned about his legacy, then he'll lose sleep. If he's more concerned with getting his game right and contributing in some meaningful way, then he'll be moving in a much more meaningful direction.

San Jose needs to figure out how to get over the playoff hump, so if that means having Marleau take up a role as a 4th line checker, so be it.

Roenick seems to take issue with the fact that Marleau is collecting $6 million in salary, while he's stinking up the ice. There's also the angle that Roenick is still a little bitter for falling short up a Cup win while he wrapped up his career in San Jose. Not sure I buy that.

I don't think Roenick is that complex. He's a simple guy, that tells it like it is. He feels like he's earned the right to say what he feels. Heck, he feels like he's being paid to say what he feels.

Frankly, there's something refreshing about a perspective that's probably a lot closer to what real players are thinking. The opinion of an analyst that's never played the game is no more credible than mine. It's all opinion and conjecture.

I'll take a player's view over a civilian any day of the week. Guys like Brent Hedican has proven to be one of the best Sharks analysts in recent memory, because he can bring true insight in explaining how a play worked or failed. Hedican also hasn't been shy about his opinions when it comes to evaluating players. He's just been a bit more selective with his adjectives.

In both Roenick and Hedican's case, they tend to be more insightful, because they're not polished to be politically correct talking heads. Hedican's personality is a bit more professional, which has translated well for him in the Bay Area.

When I interviewed Sharks CSN California analyst David Maley earlier this season, he had a few things to say about past and present players. They weren't inflammatory and he made sure his comments were presented in the right context, but they were refreshing to hear. Watching him on CSN broadcasts, you see a much more reserved personality. Maley is a hockey player first and foremost that's elected to transition his career into broadcasting. It works, because his experience as a player validates his insight. One thing you get right away is that these guys tend to know what they're talking about.

What I don't understand is why guys like Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda feel they need to come to Marleau's aid? Marleau is a grown man who can defend himself. He's not the most talkative guy in the Bay Area, but he's big enough to hold court for himself.

He took the high road on Monday, saying that he had heard the remarks, but he doesn't control what other people say, so he's only going to worry about the things that he controls.

Marleau has dealt with this kind of stuff before. He's not a 19 year-old rookie. He can take care of himself. He can shut Roenick up by delivering, and there's no time like the present. San Jose could use some scoring from the centerman, so that the Red Wings are forced to focus attention in multiple places.



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