The biggest news of the week – and here we emphasize “news” in its classic sense, as an event outside our current expectations or a new development on an old subject – was not the Warriors’ crazed money-burning, or the Giants’ sudden application of proper baseball techniques to a recognizable end.
It was Patrick Marleau leaving San Jose for, of all places, Toronto. It violated every assumption we made of the man and his market while on a secondary level making perfect sense.
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Andre Iguodala got a new deal, which was one million dollars per annum and one year longer than we thought the Warriors would be comfortable giving. Stephen Curry signed for the most money a fellow in his position could receive (though not nearly as much as he is worth, both to his organization and to the NBA as a whole). Kevin Durant agreed to defer his humongous payday for a bit, by a bit.
And the Giants caught a foundering Colorado team and a very Pittsburgh’y Pirate team at the right moment for their fading self-esteem, while making a lot of little roster moves that suggest a surreptitious rebuild that nobody believes the management would ever stand.
But it is Marleau, who did 18 years as a Shark, going to Toronto for three years and $18.75 million that was the biggest surprise – especially after his bosom mate, Joe Thornton, agreed to a one-year deal to stay.
And nobody saw that coming.
Marleau was a peculiarly great player in that he never seemed to fully satisfy. His skills were hailed but his consistency in exhibiting them was sometimes in doubt. He was, in that way, a bit like talented centers in the NBA, who are always judged by what we think they should always be able to do and what they actually end up doing.
His numbers are Hall of Fame quality, especially now that Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the HOF, but he lacks the signature moment or moments that define the word of mouth that helps make such a career. To this day, he befuddles people who learn that he scored 40 goals only once and achieved 90 points no times at all. He finished in the top three for a postseason award only once (the 2006 Lady Byng for being no trouble to anyone) and played in only three All-Star Games, and yet his numbers when compared to his fellow players puts him a group of second-level Hall of Famers with Ron Francis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Frank Mahovlich and Gilbert Perreault.
It also does not help him that he played for a franchise that is defined in part by its postseason underachievements. Nor, for that matter, that he was always the guy who avoided the limelight or attention on a team that needed all the sparks it could get in a crowded entertainment field. He was very good at being “there” while being virtually undetectable.
And his new destination is the hockey media capital of the universe, where nothing he does (or does not do) will go undissected, and the privacy he and his family so cherished in California will be a thing of the past. He will not be under a microscope as much as under a magnifying class as wielded by a bully who likes burning things, especially when you consider that he will be a 40-year-old when his contract enters its final year.
In other words, he went to the place where the radar doesn’t let anything fly beneath it. He is taking center stage after decades of having been used to working in the wings, at a time when most players appreciate less notice rather than more.
So in all these ways and probably dozens more only he knows, Marleau the Leaf is an amazing development, and at only one-third the Iguodala price and one-tenth that of Curry.
In other words, sometimes the biggest news comes at a bargain. Not always, but for Patrick Marleau, that seems to be the one thing that does make sense about this seemingly nonsensical bit of real news.