Toronto Maple Leafs

Before Sharks return, Patrick Marleau left lasting mark on Maple Leafs

Before Sharks return, Patrick Marleau left lasting mark on Maple Leafs

Patrick Marleau has played for two NHL teams.

He has left quite a mark on both of them.

Marleau instantly became the best story in the league so far this season when he scored two goals against the Blackhawks in his first game back with the Sharks last Friday. The franchise's all-time leader in games played and goals scored re-signed with San Jose after the Sharks incurred some injuries on their way to an 0-3 start.

Marleau clearly is happy to be back with the team he began his career with, and as if the two-goal performance wasn't an indication, the feeling is mutual. It was his first game since last April when Marleau was still with Toronto, and although he was only with the Maple Leafs for two seasons, he left a lasting impression on them.

"He means a lot to a lot of guys on this team and he’s a close friend of mine,” Toronto's Auston Matthews said of Marleau to SportsNet's Chris Johnston. “Just the way he is as a player and as a person, I think it’s just something that we can all kind of take bits and pieces of and apply it to ourselves. Not just on the ice, but off the ice as well. Just how he treats people and just the way he is and just his presence."

"He’s been in this league for [22 years] and every time someone walked in -- no matter if it was their first game or not -- he was always there to introduce himself and talk to them and try and help out if anything could be done,” Mitch Marner said of his former teammate. "His legacy here, I think, is just how respected he was around our room and around the league and just how much he meant to our team."

Upon his arrival in Toronto, Marleau took the younger Matthews and Marner under his wing. They became travel buddies, and the young phenoms even grew close with Marleau's family.

They were both pleased to hear that Marleau wound back up in San Jose.

"He deserved to play somewhere in this league," Marner commented.

"It was great to see that," Matthews said.

[RELATED: Agent reiterates Marleau only wanted to play for Sharks]

Marleau won't have to wait long to make a return to the arena he once called home, as the Sharks travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 25.

Of course, Marleau has another homecoming to get through first. That would be San Jose's game against Calgary on Sunday, Marleau's second first home game with the team that drafted him.

Patrick Marleau's agent says his client only wanted to play for Sharks

Patrick Marleau's agent says his client only wanted to play for Sharks

When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes in a salary dump this summer, the NHL veteran had one thing on his mind.

Marleau was singularly focused on reuniting with the Sharks, his agent Pat Brisson wrote to The Mercury News' Curtis Pashelka.

"Carolina had interest in Patrick for him to be part of the team this season, however Patrick wanted to be a Shark at all [costs]," Brisson e-mailed Pashelka on Friday. "He will retire as a Shark. At that point I started communicating with (Sharks general manager) Doug Wilson on a regular basis in order to try making it work."

Marleau signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Maple Leafs in 2017, and the longest tenured player in Sharks history suited up in a different uniform for the first time in two decades. Needing to re-sign a host of restricted free agents, including star winger Mitch Marner, the Leafs traded Marleau to the Hurricanes just before June's NHL draft. 

Although the 'Canes wanted to keep him, Marleau wanted to return to his first NHL home. That appeared unlikely when Wilson told The Athletic in September that the Sharks were focused on giving their young forwards opportunities to earn roster spots in training camp.

But the Sharks struggled out of the gate, starting 0-3-0 to begin the season while dealing with Evander Kane's suspension, some injuries and those young players adjusting to the NHL. San Jose wanted to bring in a veteran presence, and that opened the door for a reunion.

"The Sharks have made promises and commitments to their young players as part of their development," Brisson wrote in the e-mail. "If they were to look at bringing a veteran player obviously Patrick was going to be Doug's choice all along."

[RELATED: How Dell's win can help Sharks, fellow goalie Jones rebound]

Marleau officially signed with the Sharks on Wednesday, and he scored two goals in his first game back two days later. He kept skating on his own and with former teammates, but didn't participate in a training camp as a free agent. Marleau told reporters Saturday he experienced "a lot of ups and downs" when asked if he had a chance to sign with another team, but wouldn't elaborate. 

Now, Marleau is set to play his first home game for the Sharks in two-and-a-half years Sunday when San Jose hosts the Calgary Flames. Marleau is sure to receive a raucous ovation, further reminding him that this reunion was worth the wait. 

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.