2016 will be a year to remember for Patrick Marleau, who scored 25 goals and reached his first ever Stanley Cup Final in his 18th NHL season.
Seemingly the Cal Ripken Jr. of hockey, Patrick Marleau’s workhorse mentality and ability to play in every game, even at the age of 36, continued in his 18th NHL season.
For the seventh consecutive season, Marleau played in every contest, scoring 25 goals and adding 23 assists to his remarkable career. He now has 1,411 career regular season games played and has 1,036 points under his belt. His average ice time of 19:02 in the regular season was the second-most among forwards on the team, and among San Jose Sharks who played in at least 50 games, he had the least amount of penalty minutes, along with Matt Nieto, with a slim 10 on the entire campaign.
It’s truly remarkable how little Marleau, one of the three best Sharks of all time, has slowed down throughout his illustrious career. Scoring 25 goals and averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time is an incredible feat for a 36 year-old.
However, some signs were there that age finally caught up to the Saskatchewan native. For the second consecutive season, Marleau posted an abysmal plus/minus (-22), and his back checking took a significant step back from the past. That plus/minus was the worst number on the whole squad, and by a decent amount.
He notched only seven primary assists this season after recording 15 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. Marleau’s 23 total assists were the fewest he’s had in a season since 2001-02, aside from the 2012-13 lockout-shortened campaign.
At the same time, Marleau wasn’t being relied on to carry a top-two line anymore like he had as a member of team teal in the past. That torch has been handed over to Joe Pavelski and hopefully Tomas Hertl in the coming year or two. With Pavelski becoming one of the league’s best goal-scorers, Joe Thornton remaining one of the best playmakers/passers in the NHL and the rise of Hertl, one shouldn’t expect Marleau to put up numbers like he did in the mid-2000’s.
Only 47 players in the NHL scored 25-plus goals and dished out 23 or more assists, and aside from super-human Jaromir Jagr, Marleau was the oldest player in the league to accomplish such feat.
Furthermore, Marleau elevated his game when the playoffs began, finishing with a solid 13 points and a plus-four rating. He tallied four points in the Kings series, five points against the Predators and three against the Blues.
The speed and youth of the Penguins caught up to Marleau though, who struggled in the series and was somewhat of a liability when on the ice, especially in the middle-games of the matchup. While that’s disappointing, at some point, playing more than 106 hockey games (reg. season and playoffs) in less than 250 days should catch up to you when your Marleau’s age, and it did.
It’s fitting, however, that a lifelong Shark and someone who has been through every up and down this organization has seen throughout nearly the past two decades would score in the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup Final game – an awesome goal at that.
Now, the question remains: for how long, and where, will Marleau play to finish out his career? He has one year remaining on his contract as he’ll be making nearly $6.7 million in 2016-17 with San Jose. There’s a small chance Marleau may decide to hang up the skates this summer, but he likely will be back in teal next season if he isn’t dealt, which could also happen near the trade deadline.
The fact is if Marleau does want to keep playing, he may have to play somewhere else after next season due to the Sharks needing spots for some prospects coming up in the organization.
However, Marleau’s season has to be appreciated for now and him finally getting over the hump and reaching a Stanley Cup Final was something all Sharks fans were happy to see. If 2016-17 does turn out to be his last season, let’s hope it’s him lifting up the Stanley Cup in June as a member of the Sharks.