Sharks

Marleau wore 'out a few carpets' making decision to leave Sharks

Marleau wore 'out a few carpets' making decision to leave Sharks

Patrick Marleau’s decision to leave San Jose for Toronto was, naturally, an arduous one.

“I think I’ve worn out a few carpets pacing around the house trying to make this decision over the last couple days,” said Marleau, who signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Maple Leafs on Sunday, ending his 19-year run in San Jose. 

“But, I’m extremely excited and happy to be a part of the Maple Leafs organization. It’s definitely an honor to be able to call myself a Maple Leaf, obviously being a Canadian-born player. This decision took me quite awhile to come to, but I’ve made it, and I’m happy with it. I can’t wait to get started.”

It’s certain that the Maple Leafs’ contract offer, which reportedly includes a full no-movement clause and is front-loaded with a salary of $8.5 million in the first season, was much better than what the Sharks were offering. The most recent report had a two-year contract offer from San Jose, and a source recently told NBC Sports California that other teams were willing to put significantly more money on the table than were the Sharks. The Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars were also thought to be in the running for Marleau’s services.

Toronto, though, won out. Head coach Mike Babcock has always been a Marleau fan, coaching the forward in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics as Team Canada captured back-to-back gold medals, and his presence behind the bench played a role.

“Having known [Babcock in the Olympics]…the work he’s done over his career speaks for itself,” Marleau said. “Knowing what he’s doing there with the team he has, and knowing what I can contribute, is extremely exciting for me.”
 
The Maple Leafs are among the league’s young teams on the rise, with Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews and forward Mitch Marner leading the way. They made the playoffs in 2016-17 for the first time in four seasons, losing to top-seeded Washington in the first round in a tightly contested six-game series in which five games went to overtime. 

Marleau, who is as durable a player as there is in the NHL and takes tremendous care of his body, will surely be counted on to show the youngsters how to act like a pro.

A reunion with the Sharks will come early, as Maple Leafs visit SAP Center on Oct. 30. San Jose appears at Air Canada Centre on Jan. 4, and Marleau and his family should be settled in by then.

Pondering that move across the continent is why Marleau’s decision dragged into the second day of NHL free agency, after most high profile players – including Joe Thornton, who has committed to return to the Sharks on a one-year deal – had made up their minds.

“The [Sharks] owners, Hasso Plattner and all the other owners here, the organization has been first class to me over the 19 years that I’ve been here. My wife and four boys, it was extremely tough to finally pull the trigger and have them move to a new country across, you know, from one coast to the other. 

“But everybody here in our house is extremely excited to be a part of the Maple Leafs and where they’re going. I’m ecstatic to be a part of that.”

There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens

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AP

There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens

The San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens could not be more different in terms of tradition. But, on the ice this season, they couldn’t be more similar.

Both teams have placed their faith in a goalie that wears #31. The top defensemen on each team, Brent Burns and Shea Weber, are 32 and signed until 2025 and 2026, respectively. Tomas Hertl and Alex Galchenyuk are 2012 first round picks playing on the wing after being drafted as centers. Tomas Plekanec and Joe Thornton are favorites on the wrong side of 30, who may head elsewhere next summer.  Heck, both teams miss defenseman David Schlemko, who San Jose lost in the expansion draft and was eventually traded to Montreal, where he hasn’t yet played due to injury.

And both have struggled mightily so far. San Jose and Montreal have combined to win just two games, and sit 29th and 30th, respectively, in goals scored this season. It’s hard to imagine the Sharks and Canadiens scoring so little with all of that talent, but they can’t bank on good fortune, either.

Something’s got to give when the two face off at SAP Center tonight. After tonight, one team will feel much better about themselves, and the other team will be much closer to hitting the panic button.

That’s where the critical difference lies: Montreal’s already hit it, and San Jose probably won’t.

Last season, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien in February. Seven months after essentially siding with Therrien and trading star defenseman P.K. Subban, Bergevin ended Therrien’s time in Montreal, too. He surely can’t fire another coach, but a Galchenyuk trade is reportedly a possibility, according to TSN.

The Sharks, on the other hand, likely won’t do any of that. Even with the burden of high expectations in his tenure, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson’s never traded away a star player or fired a coach midseason. Even though Vegas pegs Peter DeBoer as the odds-on favorite to lose his job, it’s hard to envision Wilson making a change behind the bench during the year. He didn’t in 2015 when Todd McLellan seemed to lose the room, so why would he now?

Patience is what truly separates the Sharks and Canadiens, and that difference will likely determine how each front office reacts if their teams continue to struggle. Wilson’s shown a willingness to swing for the fences under these circumstances. He acquired Joe Thornton in 2005, after all.

But if you’re waiting on Wilson to take a page out of Bergevin’s book and fire the coach or trade away a key piece approaching their prime? Don’t hold your breath.

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders is one with which Sharks fans have become all too familiar.

The Sharks held a decided 41-23 edge on the shot count, but trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard. Since 2005, no team in the league has lost more games (59) in which they shot 35 or more times, and held their opponent to 25 or fewer shots.

No, your instincts haven’t deceived you over the Joe Thornton era: San Jose has lost a lot of games where they’ve otherwise outplayed their opponent. Of course, they’ve won plenty of those games too. More often than not, in fact, winning 72 of 131 times under those circumstances.

Frustration under those circumstances became readily apparent in the second period on Saturday, when Joe Pavelski broke his stick over Thomas Greiss’ net. The captain had plenty of reason to be unhappy, as his goalless drought to start the season has mirrored his team’s inability to finish at even strength.

So far this season, only Dallas and Montreal have scored on a lower percentage of their shots at even strength than San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both the Stars and Canadiens, unsurprisingly, are seventh in their respective divisions. The Sharks are sixth in the Pacific, thanks only to the still-winless Coyotes.

This early in the season, bad results can mask a strong process. They can’t finish, but the Sharks have been, statistically, one of the league’s best puck possession teams at even strength. That can happen over such a short stretch, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the team’s sitting in the division’s basement.

Right now, the Sharks just aren’t scoring enough at even strength, even as they’re playing well elsewhere. The power play’s begun to find an identity, particularly on the Kevin Labanc-led second unit. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since allowing three in the season opener, and have climbed all the way to 13th in the league.

If the Sharks continue to play this way, the goals, and wins, should come. They may not, of course, especially if Peter DeBoer struggles to find combinations that click for more than a game at a time. But eventually, the results should align with the process.

Saturday night was “one of those games” that have been surprisingly common in recent Sharks history, but it shouldn’t be chalked up as anything more than an amusing anomaly. Sometimes, one team is better, and still finds a way to lose.  

Sometimes, it truly is that simple.