Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton reunion could provide boost Sharks need

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton reunion could provide boost Sharks need

There are currently three players in the NHL who were born in the 1970s. Two of them, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, are now sporting teal sweaters.

"If they play on the same line it might be one of the oldest lines in NHL history," NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker joked on "Sharks Morning Skate" on Facebook Live on Thursday morning.

But this reunion between the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks from the 1997 NHL Draft is about more than just bringing up the average age on the Sharks. Marleau returns to San Jose in a more seasoned, veteran role -- one that Thornton truly grew into in the two seasons that No. 12 was playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. That added leadership surely is something the 0-4-0 Sharks can benefit from.

"It's early in the season, but for (Marleau) to come back now, it's excellent," fellow NBC Sports California analyst Kendall Coyne Schofield discussed. "I think leadership is one thing that is needed in the Sharks locker room right now."

After returning to the lineup last season following some early-season issues with his surgical-repaired knee, Thornton settled very nicely into a role where he was pivotal in guiding the development of young players around him. Regular linemates Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc had breakout seasons in 2019, spending most of their time skating on Thornton's wings. 

Simultaneously, Marleau took on a very similar role in Toronto, working with young forwards like Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. That's a role he's likely to continue in his return to San Jose.

"When he started with the Sharks two decades ago, his role was very different," Schofield observed. "His role has changed throughout his career and we saw that role change in Toronto. I'm excited to see what he brings to the Sharks, which will be different than when he started his career with the Sharks."

Marleau doesn't just have the opportunity to take some of San Jose's younger players under his wing. There's also the potential there to re-create offensive magic with long-time teammate Thornton.

"They've always gotten along because you've got a generational passer with a generational scorer," Baker said of Thornton and Marleau's chemistry. "(Marleau) scores winning goals, big key goals. And who's the guy who puts it on his tape a lot? A guy named Joe Thornton. So I think this is great."

With any luck, the two seasoned vets can get something going for the Sharks on Thursday night against the Blackhawks.

The Sharks have history on their side, given they won two of three against the Blackhawks last season and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games against the Chicago squad. In 100 total meetings between the franchises, San Jose is 52-35-5-8 all-time.

[RELATED: Why Roenick believes Marleau "deserves" last shot with Sharks]

That being said, the Sharks also are off to their worst start since entering the league, so relying on past records could mean absolutely nothing. All that really matters for San Jose at this juncture is that Peter DeBoer's club somehow, someway, gets into the win column. 

If a reunion between Thornton and Marleau can help lead the team to a victory, the Sharks will take it.

Patrick Marleau thanks Sharks fans for warm welcome back to San Jose

Patrick Marleau thanks Sharks fans for warm welcome back to San Jose

Patrick Marleau is home. For the first time since returning to the Sharks, Marleau skated in front of the home fans at SAP Center on Sunday night. 

As you might guess, it was an emotional scene for both Marleau and the Sharks faithful. The 40-year-old couldn't help but let out a few tears when fans erupted at the sight of him on the jumbotron in the first period of a 3-1 win over the Flames

On Monday, Marleau took to Twitter through his wife Christina's account to thank Sharks fans for such a warm welcome back to The Tank.

[RELATED: Patrick Marleau left lasting mark on Maple Leafs]

The Sharks, who dropped their first four games this season, have now won two straight since signing Marleau to a one-year contract on Oct. 8. He already has three points -- two goals and an assist -- in the two victories.

Marleau spent the first 19 seasons of his 22-year NHL career with the Sharks before he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the 2017-18 season. He's San Jose's all-time leader in games played (1,495), goals (510) and points (1,085).

Dylan Gambrell's improved play aiding Sharks' quest for four-line game

Dylan Gambrell's improved play aiding Sharks' quest for four-line game

SAN JOSE - One of the biggest criticisms of the Sharks at this early point in the season has been that its younger players hadn't stepped up yet.

That changed on Sunday evening in San Jose's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames. 

Sure, San Jose's young stars Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Labanc all found the net in the victory. But when Hertl and captain Logan Couture addressed the media postgame, independent of each other, both pointed to newcomer Dylan Gambrell's emergence over the last few games as a key factor in the Sharks' recent success.

Gambrell's positive production as fourth-line center is giving San Jose more offensive depth. While the Sharks' forward attack is still a work in progress, the 23-year-old forward is evolving into the pivotal player the team needs.

"He's been given an opportunity and these last two games he's really shown what he's been capable of," Couture said. "When we have that line playing well and the other three rolling over, we're a tough team to beat."

Head coach Peter DeBoer agreed with the assessment of his captain.

"For him, that's all about competing," DeBoer said of Gambrell. "Sticking his nose in there and competing. His skill and speed will take over and he's starting to do that here regularly."

There was a spotlight on Gambrell heading into training camp after he signed a two-year contract following a season in which he bounced between the AHL and NHL. But the University of Denver product didn't readily establish his game when he was plugged into the top six through the preseason and, like the majority of the Sharks, struggled out of the gate in the first few games of the regular season. 

After penciling back onto the fourth line, Gambrell's game visibly changed. 

"I think he saw that he was close to being sent back. That's the reality of it," DeBoer admitted. "He wasn't as effective (in training camp) as he is now. And maybe that's on us. Maybe we asked him to do too much. We played him on the wing on the top two lines and maybe it was too much for him."

Back at the center position on that fourth line, however, the speedy forward has been on an upward trend. He's been more effective in the faceoff circle and more aggressive on the puck, which gives San Jose depth down the middle that they, frankly, have been missing since last season.

"He had a little tough start but now he's playing a really hard game and this is what we need," Hertl said. "Good on faceoffs, strong on the puck."

Continuing that higher level of compete can make the Sharks' quest to establish a four-line game a bit smoother. As San Jose has encountered through the first six games of the season, the Western Conference is stacked with teams that can get production out of any line they roll out onto the ice. While the Sharks' offense is still in the process of getting healthy -- Marcus Sorensen is still sidelined -- the team needs to get its four-line game in place if they're going to completing recover from their rough start to the season.

[RELATED: Sharks fans give Marleau standing ovation]

"In this league, you need four lines," Hertl summarized. "It's not about just one line. Every night you need four lines plus your goalie."

If Gambrell can continue this upward trend, the Sharks have a better chance of achieving that goal.