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Personality in question
Marleau's demeanor has worn out its welcome
3/9/12 - By Mike Lee -

Patrick Marleau's days in San Jose should be numbered. Never thought I'd utter those words. I'm a huge Patrick Marleau fan you see. I'm a fan of the fact that Marleau has played his entire NHL career in San Jose. He's evolved from a kid into a man, and has contributed much to San Jose's evolution from expansion team to perennial playoff contender. I'm a fan of the fact that Marleau is a down to earth farm boy who puts in a day's work and never complains about the down side of being a professional athlete.

I'm a fan of Marleau, because he is the true face of the San Jose Sharks. Some will say that responsibility belongs to Joe Thornton, but I'd disagree. Thornton is an import. Marleau is home grown. Marleau was here when the franchise was turning the corner in its evolution.

Watching Marleau on skates is like watching poetry at times. He floats with the greatest of ease across frozen ice like a leaf fluttering in the wind. He can be a magician with the puck at times.

Patrick Marleau is almost everything you want in a hockey player.

Almost everything.

What Marleau brings in talent, he lacks in fire. At least on the outside. As a team leader, fire is something Marleau's teammates expect. They feed off his energy. When there is none, there is nothing to feed off of.

Some will argue that Marleau brings an even demeanor to the rink, which is what you need in order to be successful as a professional athlete. You can't get too high or too low, they say. I agree with that to a degee, but also believe that how you react to highs and lows is different than the desire you emit to your teammates and coaches.

Like it or not, his teammates look to him as a gauge. A player's demeanor reflects their desire, and motivation. Make no mistake about it. His teammates feed off his play.

The longest tenured player in franchise history has been a Shark his entire career. Any professional athlete will tell you that they want stability in their personal lives, and playing for one franchise helps accomplish that. Players give home team discounts come contract negotiation time, because there is value in not having to uproot your family, make new friends, and turn your personal life upside down.

Marleau has done something right to play for one team for 14 seasons. Talent is a big selling point and his teammates understand this, but there is also the personal side that Sharks players understand is a big part of Marleau's makeup.

When Jeremy Roenick called out Marleau for the second time in a year, everyone looked to see how the Sharks would respond. In typical fashion, Marleau brushed off Roenick's comments, telling CSN that "it's not even worth commenting on."

Unfortunately it is.

Marleau needs to show his teammates that he's not going to take it anymore. He's not going to take it from Roenick, and he's not going to settle for mediocrity as a team.

Roenick isn't just taking pot shots at Marleau for the heck of it. Some accuse Roenick of being a self-serving opportunist, who only says the things he does to stay relevant in hockey circles. Problem is, Roenick doesn't need to make waves to stay relevant. He's a media darling, because he's worn his heart on his sleeve from the moment he stepped onto NHL ice as a player. What you see is what you get with Roenick.

I think Roenick picks on Marleau, because he actually wants him to succeed. He wants San Jose to succeed. Roenick owes Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson a huge debt for salvaging his career and reputation. Roenick came within a series of winning the most important trophy of his career as a Shark, and was a relevant participant along the way. For that, he still feels an association to San Jose and to Wilson.

Don't be surprised if Roenick is also speaking for Wilson. I think the Sharks have exhausted ways to insight a pulse in Marleau outside of publicly criticizing him. That's not Wilson's style. Having Roenick serve as a mouth piece, allows him to prod his speedy forward without backing himself into a corner.

If he openly challenges Marleau, he either gets production out of him, or he's forced to get rid of him if he doesn't produce. The Roenick sounding board allows him to light a fire and take a pass if it doesn't work.

When Roenick called out Marleau last year, the Sharks centerman responded with a big playoff performance. He was arguably the best player in teal, scoring more goals than any other Shark, including the Game 7 winner in the Conference Semi-Finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

That performance silenced the critics, namely Roenick, but only until the Sharks started to under-perform this spring. Wilson knows his team is on the brink of missing the playoffs altogether, should they not get their act together, and spurning Marleau is one way to get his squad headed in the right direction.

Roenick's comments also rally the Sharks around Marleau. It's a card that Roenick have played too early, but it may be something the Sharks need as their grasp on a playoff spot begins to slip.

As for my initial comment, I think Marleau gets one more shot at doing something in San Jose. At 32, he's career will begin to slope downward. Time is not something you can cheat as a professional athlete, especially in the bone-crushing environment that is the NHL.

He's still a marketable trade option, and the $13.8 million dollars the Sharks will pay him over the next two seasons isn't the kind of money you want to spend on a guy that can almost get it done. If Wilson is serious about trying to land Rick Nash this summer, he'll have to give to get, and Marleau becomes a viable piece of bait.

There is a no-trade clause involved here, but in reality, why would Marleau void a move when he's not wanted? This isn't Dany Heatley we're talking about here. It's not in his nature.

If you can strip the C off a guy's chest and call him out publicly twice, and still not motivate the guy to show any emotion, you never will. You'll get a shrug of the shoulders and an "oh well", which is what the Sharks have become as a franchise.

If the face of your team is willing to simply accept the cards he's dealt without a fight, then it's time to get a new face.

As Marleau's demeanor goes, so goes the Sharks.


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