The prodigal son returns on Monday night, as Patrick Marleau takes the ice at SAP Center as an opponent for the first time. His teal tenure was filled with highs and lows, but ended with Marleau as the longest-tenured and highest-scoring player in franchise history.
With a Toronto Maple Leafs’ crest on his chest instead of the San Jose Sharks’, he’ll surely be reminded of the moments that defined his Sharks career.
SHARKS DRAFT MARLEAU
For the second straight year, the Sharks picked second overall at the 1997 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. They selected Marleau, a soft-spoken 17-year-old from the small farm town of Aneroid, Saskatchewan.
Had it not be the presence of a future teammate, Marleau may not have even been on the board for San Jose. The Mercury News wrote in 1997 that “[m]any hockey scouts and coaches think [Marleau] would have been the No. 1 pick in recent drafts; only bad timing put him in the same draft with Joe Thornton.”
THE FIRST OF MANY
Just over a month after his 18th birthday, Marleau scored his first NHL goal in a 5-3 loss to the then-Phoenix Coyotes. One of the youngest players in his draft class, Marleau started his professional career slowly, scoring just 6 points in the first 20 games of his rookie season.
He improved as the season wore on, and his 32 points that year ranked fourth among rookies. Marleau finished sixth in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Marleau hit the 25-goal plateau for the first time in his fourth season, and led the Darryl Sutter-led Sharks with 52 points in 2000-01. In the remaining 15 years of his San Jose career, he hit that mark 10 times, and never scored again scored less than 19 goals in an 82-game season.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
In Ron Wilson’s first full season behind the Sharks bench in 2003-04, San Jose rotated its captaincy before naming Marleau the sixth permanent captain in franchise history. He scored a career-high 57 points that season, leading the Sharks to their second division title.
FROM PLAYOFF G.O.A.T...
He was also a key figure in San Jose’s run to its first-ever Western Conference finals appearance. Marleau’s 12 points in 17 games were second on the team, and his two hat-tricks remain a Sharks playoff record for the most in a single postseason.
... TO PLAYOFF SCAPEGOAT
Marleau was blamed for San Jose’s inability to get out of the second round in subsequent seasons. In a 2007 second round series with the rival Detroit Red Wings, Marleau lost the puck along the neutral zone boards, and Robert Lang tied the game with the Sharks 33 seconds away from a 3-1 series lead.
San Jose lost the game, and eventually the series, and Marleau’s reputation as an underachiever truly began.
STRIPPED OF THE CAPTAINCY
That reputation came to a head in 2009, when the President’s Trophy-winning Sharks failed to advance out of the first round. Marleau scored just three points in a six-game loss to the rival Anaheim Ducks, and took the heat for San Jose’s biggest playoff disappointment to date: That offseason, the Sharks stripped Marleau of the ‘C.’
Losing the captaincy had little effect on Marleau’s play in 2009-10. He scored a career-high 44 goals, formed one of hockey’s best lines with Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton, and won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It was the beginning of the best stretch of his career, and over the next four 82-game seasons, Marleau never scored less than 30 goals.
COMING UP CLUTCH
In 2010, Marleau also exorcised some playoff demons. He scored two game-winning goals in San Jose’s second round series against Detroit, including the series clincher that sent the Sharks back to the Western finals. Despite the constant criticism, Marleau’s 16 game-winning goals are tied for ninth-most in NHL playoff history, and tied for the most among active players with Jaromir Jagr.
MARLEAU PUNCHES BACK
Perhaps no media member has criticized Marleau more harshly than ex-teammate Jeremy Roenick. The NBCSN analyst called Marleau ‘gutless’ in 2011, and listed him among his least-favorite former teammates in his 2012 book. The latter prompted Marleau to respond.
“To say that I don’t care about my play or winning or being gutless is absurd,” Marleau wrote in a text message to reporter David Pollak, then with the Mercury News. “I wouldn’t have left home at 14 years old to play a game I didn’t care about. I want to win more than anyone.”
A FITTING CUP FINAL DEBUT
Age appeared to finally catch up to Marleau in 2015-16. He failed to crack the 50-point mark for the first time since 2007-08, and was moved up and down the lineup by new head coach Peter DeBoer.
He was a secondary scorer in the Sharks’ first-ever run to the Stanley Cup Final, but 19 years after he was drafted, Marleau finally scored his first Stanley Cup goal in Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fittingly, he did so in the same city in which he was drafted.
On February 2, 2017, in his Marleau became the 45th player in NHL history to score 500 NHL goals. His 500th tally was one of 27 goals the 37-year-old Marleau scored in his 19th and final season with the Sharks, good enough for third on the team. He ultimately ended his San Jose career with 508 goals, 301 clear of Joe Pavelski, the next-closest Shark.
THE END OF AN ERA
Patrick Marleau played his final game with, and scored his final goal for the Sharks on April 22, 2017, when the Edmonton Oilers eliminated San Jose in Game 6 of the first round.
Marleau entered free agency for the first time of his career this summer, and wore ‘out a few carpets’ deciding to sign a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That decision ended his teal tenure after 1,493 regular season games, the seventh-longest of any NHL player with a single franchise.