Sharks

Sharks jersey retirements: Why Patrick Marleau should be honored first

Sharks jersey retirements: Why Patrick Marleau should be honored first

Editor’s Note: The Sharks are the only team in the Pacific Division -- other than the nascent Vegas Golden Knights -- who have not raised the jersey of a former player to the rafters. This week, NBC Sports California will examine the cases of the five likeliest candidates to have the Sharks’ first retired number. We conclude with Patrick Marleau.

Patrick Marleau saw it all in a Sharks uniform. 

Selected No. 2 overall in the 1997 NHL Draft, Marleau joined San Jose as a 17-year-old. The Sharks had just followed up their first two Stanley Cup playoff appearances with back-to-back finishes in the Western Conference basement. 

They returned to the playoffs in Marleau’s rookie season, and only would miss out on the postseason twice during his 19 seasons in San Jose. Over his ensuing 1,670 regular-season and playoff games with the Sharks, Marleau climbed to the top of San Jose’s goal-scoring and points lists.

He was the captain, and then he wasn’t. He was criticized for his playoff performances, and then he scored series-clinching goals that sent the Sharks to the Western Conference final in back-to-back postseasons. Through it all, Marleau was a fixture in San Jose and remained synonymous with the franchise even after he left as a free agent in 2017. 

Let’s examine the case for, and against, the Sharks retiring Marleau’s No. 12 jersey first. 

The case for

When Marleau signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs two summers ago, nobody had played more games, scored more goals or compiled more points in a Sharks uniform. Joe Thornton now is within striking distance of Marleau’s regular-season and playoff points records, but Marleau's total games-played mark should stand for at least another handful of seasons. 

Although his Sharks peak fell just shy of Thornton's, Marleau was pretty damn good in teal. He scored at least 25 goals in 12 seasons, at least 30 in seven, at least 35 in four and 40-plus once (44 in 2009-10). No San Jose player has more 25-, 30- or 40-goal seasons to their name. 

Marleau also is one of 21 players to score 500 goals with a single franchise. Only six players have played more games with one team than Marleau. He’s known as “Mr. Shark” for a reason, and even Thornton has said Marleau will “go down as the best Shark of all-time.” 

He also remains beloved. Marleau received a five-minute standing ovation in his first return to San Jose, and drew loud cheers in his second. Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews revealed a No. 12 Marleau sweater under his jersey during this year’s NHL All-Star Skills Competition in San Jose, and got one of the biggest reactions of the weekend -- and Marleau wasn’t even there to hear it.  

The case against

We’re nitpicking here, but let’s try anyway. For one, Marleau did wear two numbers in San Jose, although you’re far more likely to see No. 12 sweaters at SAP Center than the No. 14 he rocked for four seasons. 

Marleau’s franchise records are a testament to his longevity, but he wasn’t necessarily as dominant as Thornton or some of his other teammates. He never finished on a First or Second All-Star team at the end of a season, and was a top 10 finisher for the Hart and Selke Trophies just three times.

While Marleau and Thornton shouldered a disproportionate share of the blame for the Sharks’ playoff disappointments, it’s worth noting that Marleau only led San Jose in postseason points in four playoff runs. Of those, the Sharks won a playoff series in just two. 

Marleau was warmly received in his return to San Jose, but he left by his own volition in the first place. His Toronto tenure will be a blip on the radar of his career, yet Marleau won’t retire as a one-franchise player no matter where he plays this season.  

[RELATED: Sharks reportedly 'don't want' reunion with Marleau next year]

Verdict

This is a no-brainer. Marleau’s No. 12 should be the first the Sharks retire, and they shouldn’t wait long to do it. He could play anywhere else and he still will be remembered as a Shark, if not the Shark. 

But as we outlined Thursday, Thornton arguably has a better claim to the honor than his longtime teammate. But even though Thornton stayed in San Jose and Marleau did not when both hit free agency in 2017, their Sharks careers are forever linked. 

Because of this, it makes perfect sense for the Sharks to simultaneously retire both numbers. They came into the NHL together as the top two picks in the 1997 draft, played on a line together for years and are going to retire as first and second in games played with the franchise.

There might not be a better tribute to both players.

Which Sharks should have their jersey retired first?

The case for -- and against -- Evgeni Nabokov's jersey retirement
The case for -- and against -- Owen Nolan's jersey retirement
The case for -- and against -- Joe Pavelski's jersey retirement
The case for -- and against -- Joe Thornton's jersey retirement

Sharks' Mario Ferraro reveals lesson learned in whirlwind rookie year

Sharks' Mario Ferraro reveals lesson learned in whirlwind rookie year

Mario Ferraro has surpassed the wildest of expectations in his rookie season with the Sharks, and it hasn't exactly been an uneventful one.

Since making the jump straight from college to the pros, the 21-year-old defenseman has witnessed a mid-season coaching change, the acquisition and eventual trading of a franchise legend, a seemingly endless string of serious injuries to roster cornerstones and -- oh yeah -- an indefinite pause of the NHL season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Not exactly your average rookie year.

Technically, Ferraro's rookie season hasn't come to an end -- at least not yet. Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that there currently is too much uncertainty for the league to be able to determine when the season might be able to resume, though he hopes to "know more by the end of April." In any case, even if San Jose was able to play out its remaining games, there are only 12 left. Considering the Sharks fell to the absolute bottom of the NHL standings right before the season was paused, an additional playoff run is entirely out of the question.

So, for all intents and purposes, we can't really consider Ferraro a rookie anymore. He has 61 career NHL games under his belt, so, really, that has been the case for a while.

Ferraro flew back to Toronto shortly before the Bay Area's shelter-in-place orders went into effect, and has been doing his best to stay in shape while living at his parents' house. In a recent discussion with NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil, he described an important lesson that was crucial to his development as a rookie.

"I think one small thing that's actually not small at all when you really look at it," Ferraro said, "is just preparation and that mentality of staying even-keel the whole year. What I mean by that is not getting too high on the highs or too low on the lows. You have so many games and so many important games that if you have a good game one night, you better forget about it because you gotta do the same thing the next night. Or, vice versa, if you play poorly, you really gotta forget about it and bounce back strong.

"And it's not just from game to game -- it's from shift to shift. You're playing in a league that has really fast players, strong players. You can get exposed, and it's going to happen. People are going to make mistakes. I'm a defenseman, so I feel like you're more bound to make mistakes ... they're more glaringly obvious. From a mental perspective, you really have to learn to just kind of say, OK, it happened. Move on. Let's get back to my game and play hard."

While Ferraro is correct that no player is exempt from making mistakes, he didn't have too many glaring errors throughout his first season in the NHL -- or at least, he did a good job covering them up. He earned the trust of the coaching staff and was rewarded with additional opportunities, which he proved capable of handling. Over the last eight games before the season was paused, Ferraro averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per night.

[RELATED: Leonard reunited with college roommate Ferraro on Sharks]

In terms of mentors on the team, Ferraro specifically mentioned fellow defenseman Brent Burns as someone who has been tremendously helpful to him. And like seemingly everyone else in that locker room, Ferraro is a big fan of Joe Thornton. But ultimately, it has been a team effort in supporting Ferraro throughout his rookie year. It takes a village, after all.

"Nobody's counted out on this team," Ferraro explained. "They're all great guys. They've all taught me a ton this year, and we're really close. It has been a good learning curve for me."

While we're all focused on flattening the curve, it has long been evident that -- as a rookie -- Ferraro's wasn't very steep.

Gary Bettman says NHL examining 'all options' for coronavirus restart

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AP

Gary Bettman says NHL examining 'all options' for coronavirus restart

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday there is too much uncertainty for the league to determine a target date to return amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and that they hope to "know more by the end of April."

“From an NHL standpoint, we’re viewing all of our options," Bettman told NBC Sports' Mike Tirico on "Lunch Talk Live" on Tuesday (via Pro Hockey Talk). "We want to be ready to go as soon as we get a green light -- and the green light may not be crystal clear because there may still be some places in the [U.S. and Canada] where we can’t play and others places where you can.

"We’re looking at all options. Nothing’s been ruled in, nothing’s been ruled out. And it’s largely going to be determined what we do by how much time there is because we have next season to focus on as well.”

The NHL suspended its season on March 12, a day after the NBA did the same following Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert's positive coronavirus test. Eight NHL players -- three on the Colorado Avalanche and five on the Ottawa Senators -- have tested positive.

[RELATED: Matthews, Marner detail how bromance with Marleau began]

Bettman said reports of the NHL looking into playing the remainder of its season at neutral sites -- including North Dakota, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman -- reflected how "extraordinarily competitive" the teams were as they tried to ensure a fair finish to the regular season. The commissioner said the "best thing" for the NHL would be to finish the season as they normally do, but Bettman said the league understands that might not be possible.

"[That’s] why we’re considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is," Bettman said. "Again, it doesn’t even pay to speculate because nobody in any of the sports knows enough now to make those profound decisions.”