Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Patrick Marleau, LW
2015-16 cap hit/contract: $6.67 million, signed through 2016-17
2014-15 year in review: Patrick Marleau may be the Sharks’ all-time leading scorer, but he’s had his fair share of critics over the years. He gave those critics plenty of ammunition last season, scoring just 19 goals and 57 points in 82 games – along with a team-worst -17 rating – despite being the team’s highest paid player at $7 million. He suffered through a stretch of just one goal in 22 games from Nov. 22 – Jan. 15, and just didn’t seem willing to go to the areas of the ice where most goals are typically scored.
Despite still showing flashes of being one of the fastest players in the league, it’s difficult to determine whether Marleau is declining due to his age, or if he just wasn’t emotionally invested enough after the team’s awkward offseason of 2014. Former Sharks analyst Drew Remenda suggested that Marleau “pouted” at the start of the season, and “didn’t get his feet moving.” In other words, the talent was still there but the effort was not.
Marleau – who became the youngest player in NHL history to reach 1300 NHL games played on Feb. 5 at Vancouver – has 140 goals over the last five seasons, tied with Jonathan Toews for the 10th-highest total over that span.
2015-16 outlook: Early last season when Marleau was struggling to put the puck in the net, I remember contrasting his goals with those of Melker Karlsson, who was on a surprising tear when he was recalled from Worcester. Karlsson was having success driving to the net and getting those dirty goals, while almost none of Marleau’s goals came that way (arguments from some in the advanced stats community that Marleau’s shooting percentage of 8.2 was “unlucky” just don’t hold water here). Combined with linemate Logan Couture’s early season struggles, that was a problem.
Couture got much better as the season went along, but Marleau didn’t, and the Sharks never had that shutdown forward line that those two helped form in years past. Despite his seemingly dragging down whatever line he was skating on, though, Marleau still was getting big minutes, including on the power play. Former coach Todd McLellan’s insistence to continue to play Marleau may have contributed to his firing, although to be fair to McLellan, the Sharks profoundly lacked offensive depth.
Still, Marleau may be able to rebound this year so long as he still has his legs. If there truly were feelings of ill will after last summer that contributed to halfhearted efforts, those should be gone by now. Furthermore, the last time Marleau had an off year in 2007-08 when he scored 19 goals, 48 points and was a -19, he responded with 38 goals and 71 points in 2008-09.
If he continues to decline, or doesn’t seem to be giving honest efforts on a nightly basis this year, though, don’t expect Marleau to keep getting 20 minutes a night under new coach Peter DeBoer.