SAN JOSE -- In the Sharks' first game of 2020, Patrick Marleau set up Logan Couture for a go-ahead goal in the first period of an eventual 3-2 overtime road win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Having lost 11 of its previous 13 games, San Jose hoped to generate and sustain some momentum coming out of that victory, but it was short-lived. The Sharks would win their next game, but would follow that up with a heartbreaking 6-5 OT loss in the nation's capital. The very next game, Couture sustained a fractured ankle, removing him from the lineup for the next 17 contests.
In truth, San Jose's season was sunk before Couture's injury, but when the captain went down, the reality of the situation set in. The Sharks weren't going to the playoffs -- well, not with San Jose, at least.
When it became apparent that the Sharks' playoff hopes had been dashed, general manager Doug Wilson had both a responsibility and a preference. He needed to reinvigorate the franchise with a host of new assets through trades, but also desired to put Marleau in a position to win the Stanley Cup that has evaded him thus far throughout his 22-year NHL career. So when the trade deadline came around and the Penguins came calling, Wilson presented Marleau with an option, and the Sharks' all-time leader in points, goals and games played took it.
"Obviously, things didn't go as planned here in San Jose, getting in the playoffs," Marleau said prior to the Sharks-Penguins game at SAP Center on Saturday night. "So, this opportunity presented itself, and it's not like I've got another 10 years to go, so a great opportunity for myself to come here and get in the playoffs and have another shot at winning."
It wasn't an easy decision for Marleau. He had previously left the franchise that drafted him as a free agent, only to return after two seasons. The conditions were perfect for a reunion, but it didn't end as both sides as hoped, and now, Marleau is a Penguin.
"It's difficult, especially when family and kids are involved," Marleau explained. "You have to weigh those options as well. But my family is very supportive. They mean the world to me, but they wanted me to have a shot and I was able to take it with their support."
"They were excited for me," he added. "They're well aware of what a championship means and how important it is to me, so they want that for me and they're cheering me on."
Just as Marleau's family will be rooting for him to win the Cup with Pittsburgh, so too will the vast majority of his now-former -- some twice former -- teammates in San Jose. They want to see their longtime friend fill the hole on his Hall of Fame résumé, and would welcome him back for a third time next season, whether or not he is successful in that endeavor.
From the sounds of it, that feeling is mutual.
"Yeah, I think maybe the door is open for me to come back," Marleau said of a potential return to the Sharks. "I would definitely like to play another season, so that would be good."
Entering Saturday night, Marleau is 50 games away from tying Gordie Howe's all-time NHL record for games played (1,767). Assuming he plays another season, he is extremely likely to eclipse that milestone.
It would only be right if he did so wearing a Sharks uniform.