Sharks legend Patrick Marleau a trusted voice for young Maple Leafs


Sharks legend Patrick Marleau a trusted voice for young Maple Leafs

SAN JOSE -- While the hockey world awaited his free-agent decision, John Tavares reached out to someone who knew what he was going through.

Tavares said he followed up with Sharks legend Patrick Marleau. The superstar center first spoke with Marleau, now a Maple Leafs winger, about coming to Toronto.

He also faced the possibility, like Marleau did the previous summer, of leaving the only NHL team he’d ever played for. Tavares didn’t need more insight on the Leafs, but on what it was like to leave a place that shaped his career.

“Just kind of getting his perspective more on that really,” Tavares told NBC Sports California Thursday, “[than] on where I was gonna be going, just because if I was going to choose I tried to have a better understanding of what it was like for something else that went through it."

Tavares played 824 fewer games with the New York Islanders than Marleau did with the Sharks, and he’ll have to wait much longer to return to his old home, too.

While Tavares is three months away from returning to Long Island, Marleau will make his second trip to San Jose with the Leafs Thursday night. He first returned last October, receiving a video tribute and a lengthy ovation from the crowd at SAP Center on a night Marleau said he will never forget. 

Even though the emotional return is out of the way, Marleau said it remains odd going to the visitors' locker room.

“It’s still a little bit weird,” Marleau said Thursday about coming back to San Jose. “A little funny, but definitely a little bit easier the second time.”

[RELATED: Patrick Marleau 'so happy' for Joe Thornton's 400th goal]

Marleau remains the Sharks’ all-time leader in games played (1493), goals (508), and points (1082). His ties to San Jose remain strong, too, as his family made the trip with him and will attend Thursday’s game.

He was the face of the Sharks for nearly two decades, and now he’s a leader on a young Leafs team. The 39-year-old scored 10 points in his first 18 games this season, and is still playing top-six minutes in his 21st season. 

He’s also wearing an ‘A’ as one of three alternate captains, and has grown close with two of the Leafs’ young stars, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Marner posted a video on his Instagram story Wednesday of Marleau driving while Marner, Matthews, and two of Marleau’s sons danced and sang along to the Village People’s “YMCA.”

Marleau has 18 years on Marner and Matthews, but Marner said the veteran and his family have welcomed him and Matthews with open arms.

"It's pretty special. I don't think it comes around too often,” Marner said of his relationship with Marleau. “For me and Auston, we just try to take as much in as we can. [Marleau’s] had a lot of experience. His family is awesome. It's a lot of fun being around him.”

Tavares wasn’t done picking Marleau’s brain once he signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with Toronto on July 1. Now that they’re teammates, he said he continues to learn from Marleau on and off the ice, as do the rest of his teammates.

“Patty’s one hell of a person,” Tavares said. “I think, first and foremost, guys really look up to him … and then as a pro, nobody really does it better in terms of his preparation on a daily basis. His attention to detail on the ice, how hard he works, how hard he plays, and how much he enjoys playing.

“Even for a guy [who's] approaching 1600 games, it's amazing to still see the excitement and joy he has every day on the ice and the fun he has."

Sharks' roster hopefuls still 'auditioning' as regular season nears


Sharks' roster hopefuls still 'auditioning' as regular season nears

SAN JOSE - Yes, the Sharks have roster spots they need to fill. Nobody knows that better than Peter DeBoer.

So perhaps it was to be expected when the head coach said more than once after San Jose's first preseason game Tuesday night that he hasn't filled out his final roster for the Sharks' season-opener against the Vegas Golden Knights yet.

 "We're Game 1 into a tryout here," DeBoer said. "An audition. We're not handing out any jobs tonight."

You can't blame him for answering that way. He'd probably love it if everyone outside the team stopped trying to piece his roster together for him. 

Here's the thing: San Jose is just two games into the preseason and has rolled out two different lineups for each game. A roster for opening night will come together, but DeBoer hasn't settled on the exact pieces to that puzzle just yet.

Despite losing their first two preseason games, some of the Sharks' roster hopefuls have done some positive things. Jonny Brodzinski added an offensive punch in Tuesday's game against the Anaheim Ducks while Manuel Wiederer contributed two goals in Wednesday's game against the Calgary Flames. Ryan Merkley pitched in as a helper twice in his first preseason game while Joachim Blichfeld, Ivan Chekhovich and Lean Bergmann also have found the back of the net in the preseason.

Nevertheless, one preseason showing doesn't -- as DeBoer said -- guarantee anyone a starting job.

The Sharks are aware that replacing offensive depth left by the departures of Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi is a process. In addition to scoring big goals, San Jose also has to be able to sustain offense through a full 60 minutes on a nightly basis. Through the first two games of the preseason, the team has had some difficulty doing this.

"I think we need to sustain more O-zone pressure," Brodzinski observed after Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to the Ducks, a game where the Sharks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and then took their foot off the gas in the second stanza. "We didn't have a lot of it tonight. I felt like it was more of a neutral zone game. Then we played a little bit too much in our own zone. If we can play down there a lot more, we wouldn't be as tired coming into the late shifts there."

If the idea that San Jose hasn't filled out its roster just yet scares you, keep in mind -- neither preseason game has featured the Sharks' opening night roster. Heck, we haven't even seen Logan Couture, Erik Karlsson or Martin Jones suit up for a game yet. Many of the players who have played over the past two days will be starting the season playing for the Barracuda. 

Plus, even once the regular season gets underway, there still are going to be changes made to San Jose's roster as players move between the AHL and NHL in an effort to give the team the most dynamic lineup. Just think about how many times the lineup changed at the start of last season.

[RELATED: Sharks expecting Meier to step forward in wake of departures]

The Sharks have roughly a week and a half to get into fighting shape before opening night October 2, which includes four more preseason tune-ups that kick off on Saturday with a contest against the Golden Knights. It's very possible DeBoer will roll out a lineup consisting of a few more regular-season starters, along with a few players high on the list of opening night roster additions.

Just don't be surprised if Saturday's preseason game is just another step in the audition process for players on that list.

Sharks expecting Timo Meier to take step forward in wake of departures

Sharks expecting Timo Meier to take step forward in wake of departures

Individual progress of an NHL player should not always be measured in goals. 

Yet it’s hard to ignore Timo Meier’s production: 21 goals in his first full season, followed up by 30 last year. 

“He’s worked for everything he’s got,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said of Meier. “I think power forwards take a little bit longer. It’s a harder league for bigger guys playing that kind of game to establish themselves."

“His jump last year was incredible,” fellow forward Barclay Goodrow remarked. “He kind of turned into a whole new player, just more confident. He took some games over, shooting the puck and driving the net. Just things he does well at a better pace.” 

The Swiss-born winger has developed a full-fledged reputation for utilizing all six feet and 210 pounds he’s got. 

“I try to be a physical guy. Try to get in the areas where you might hurt, and try to score some dirty goals,” Meier said at training camp. “I want to get better, that’s always something I try to stay hungry on.” 

Timing plays a critical role in the development of a homegrown product like Meier. The Sharks were able to let him develop in the pipeline, and now he's thriving on the biggest stage. 

“He got there the right way,” DeBoer explained. “You’ve got a guy with a lot of confidence, we’ve added a couple minutes every year to his time on ice. He’s going to take another step this year with the guys that departed. We’re excited to see where he can go with it.” 

And that is the exciting question: Where can Meier take things this season? 

[RELATED: Why Sharks confident they can make up for lost firepower]

“I’m not a guy that wants to put out a number and say I have to score that many goals,” Meier admitted. “I just try to go out and be the best player I can for the team.”