| It's been fun,
Franchise icon moves on
Twenty years ago, the slumping Sharks had the
second pick of the NHL draft. With it, they took Patrick Marleau, the consensus
#2 pick behind Joe Thornton, who was taken by the Bruins but, as we know, would
end up with the Sharks several years later, anyway.
Now, we have the
sad news that Marleau has taken a lucrative free agent offer from Toronto and
is leaving us, after nearly 1,500 games played and 508 goals scored. Of course,
he'll always be considered a Shark. But I can see why the Sharks held firm on
not offering a three-year deal.
He's almost 38 years old; chances are
his skills will start eroding and he's already had three consecutive declining
seasons as far as points. And if he can only play say, another two years, it is
the Leaves (plural of Leaf) and not the Sharks who would be left having to make
a lucrative contract buyout. Of course, Marleau could beat the odds and score
40 goals again; having Austin Matthews on his team certainly can't hurt
We can't fault Marleau for taking the deal that was
offered. His departure, though, brings about something we all knew was going to
eventually happen: his ]exit from the Sharks lineup after having been with them
since he was 17 years old. Thornton will leave eventually, too. But not for at
least another year, since he re-signed for just a one-year deal.
Marleau was always a great ambassador for the game. Controversial, he was not.
He was like a hockey machine - he just played the game and kept quiet. He
rarely missed a game, which surely helped him when it came to free agency. I
said a few words to him at autograph signings and saw him skating at a Sharks
Ice public skate session with one of his sons. When it turned out I didn't have
a ticket for his 1,000th game, I bought one so I could be there.
Should his number be retired? I kind of think that
should be reserved for players who won championships. I wouldn't be
disappointed if that did happen, though. Will he make the Hockey Hall of Fame
one day? The discussion has to be held. We'll have to wait until he retires to
finally find out.
It is a major disappointment that the Sharks never
did win the Stanley Cup with Marleau and Thornton, even though they did win
lots of games. They got within two victories of that goal in the 2015-16
season. Marleau, if he ever gets his name on the cup, will not being doing it
as a Shark, barring some return to the franchise in several years.
With Marleau's departure, other Sharks like Kevin Labanc, Tomas Hertl, Timo
Meier and so-far-disappointing Mikkel Boedker, are going to have to step up and
make up for the loss in production. There's not much left out there on the free
agent market unless the Sharks can somehow swing a deal for Ilya Kovalchuk. We
do know that when Marleau returns to San Jose with his new team on October 30,
the standing ovation should be very long and very loud.
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