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Mr Shark
Forward helped define a franchise
5/12/22 - By Ken Smyth
Last Tuesday, Patrick Marleau announced his retirement from the NHL in a ceremony at the Shark Tank. All of us who follow the Sharks expected this day to happen, but were rather hoping it would be on a June evening following a skate around carrying the Stanley Cup after a deciding game in the Finals. Instead it was a morning in May and the live attendance was press, family, Sharks' staff and alumni, and several hundred season ticket holders.

In tribute to his 1779 games played, the Sharks' trainers were deservedly sitting in the first row in front of the podium. Overall, though, too subdued an end to a career that defined an era of Sharks' hockey.

The fans' mood was very dark in 1997, when the Sharks drafted Marleau second overall. The team was swept in the second round of the 1995 playoffs by the Red Wings with a combined score of 24-6. Both of the seasons that followed saw the Sharks finish last in the Western Conference. General Manager Dean Lombardi lured Darryl Sutter out of retirement to coach the team in 1997-98 but several poor drafts left the team pretty bare of talent.

Marleau started the season with the Sharks straight from junior hockey. At first there was some fear that he'd turn out to be another bust like another former 2nd overall pick, Pat Falloon; but under coach Sutter the big shy kid took the challenge and became a true NHL player. The Sharks also built a roster that could compete, with some judicious free agent signings to build the bottom six (as we now call it) and some good trades.

Adding Joe Thornton to the mix in 2005 gave the Sharks two point-per-game forwards and an effective power play. Thornton and Marleau fed off one another, the two of them dominate the Sharks all-time career offensive stats.

The team missed the playoffs only twice between 1998 and 2016, and made it to the Western Conference Finals four times. Except for no Stanley Cup, we fans got spoiled. Patrick Marleau was the quiet presence on these teams and it seemed he'd finish his career here. His leadership style shaped captains who followed him, notably Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.

Seeing him leave for the Maple Leafs before the 2017-18 season at the age of 37 was a shock. He returned after being bought out in 2019 and spent most of the next two seasons as a Shark again. There was a lot of hockey in Patrick Marleau, and we long-time Sharks fans were privileged to see so much of it.

We all wish Patrick Marleau the best in his next challenge in hockey. And now, it's time for new stars to spoil the next generations of Sharks fans. Remember to save some money for tickets on the sold-out night at the Tank when Marleau's #12 sweater is raised to the rafters.

Contact Ken at at kensmyth@letsgosharks.com


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