Catch Me If You Can! Patrick Marleau & Father Time

Like a Fine Wine

For all the criticism that has come down on Patrick Marleau over the years (and yours truly is no saint in that regard), all the career Shark has done, and continues to do, is score goals, lots of goals. While those like myself prefer to see a bit more tenacity in his game, regardless, he is too valuable to trade away. The just turned 35-year-old has effectively scored 30 goals or more in six straight seasons from age 29-34. His goal totals the last six years are as follows: 38, 44, 37, 30, 17 (lockout year was on pace for 29), and 33. In other words, he has averaged 35 goals over 82 games the last six seasons. When NHL prime ages for forwards are consistently found to be between 23-28, Marleau has managed to Shark that trend. He has had his best years well into his 30’s.

(Photo courtesy of Justin Yamada/ Flikr.)
(Photo courtesy of Justin Yamada/ Flikr.)

Just last season Marleau’s 33 goals at age 34 were more than he scored at ages 24, 25, and 27. In fact, he only scored one more goal (34), in the league wide scoring bonanza that was the 2005-06 season at age 26. Even in his mid 30’s, and with much improved defenses and tight checking, Marleau still buried nearly the same amount of goals.

Misplaced Criticism

While I was very critical of Marleau in the past (particularly after two out of three bad series against the Red Wings in 2011 and Blues in 2012), the fact of the matter is he’s actually been a playoff dynamo outside of those two series. From 2002 through 2010, Marleau scored 67 points in 84 playoff games. That equates to a phenomenal points per game average of .80.

Furthermore, while Marleau scored only eight points in 17 playoff games from the start of that 2011 Red Wings series through to the 2012 Blues series (overall just .47 points per game average), he has since returned to form. Over the past two playoff since, he has scored 15 points in 18 games, for a points per game average of .83.

Again, the narrative that Marleau and Joe Thornton are the reasons the Sharks don’t win in the playoffs couldn’t be farther from the truth. On a regular basis, these two continue to lead in scoring come the postseason. It’s unfortunate they were unofficially called out by GM Doug Wilson after the Kings collapse for not scoring in the last three games. These guys should be judged on their body of work. Not for three games against the best team in hockey while short their best defenseman.

Never Misses Games

Now given Marleau’s track record and ability to stay healthy, he could continue to score 30 goals for a handful of years to come. Despite having the young speedster Matt Nieto around, it is still hard to say that Marleau isn’t the fastest skater on the Sharks. He still has that phenomenal stride, and those hands aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

While some of us would like to see Marleau play a more physical, tenacious brand of hockey, staying away from that rough stuff has helped Marleau stay injury free. Just ask Ryane Clowe what playing tough can do to the career of a top-six forward. The last time Marleau missed a regular season game was the 2008-09 regular season.

Patrick Marleau Sharks
(Icon SMI)

Couture Factor

Not to mention, Marleau has spent the last couple of seasons primarily alongide Logan Couture. The two have great chemistry. While I’ve predicted No. 12 to “fall back” from 33 to 30 goals, he could very well eclipse 35 again. When you consider that Couture missed about a month last season, a healthy year from him could pay more dividends for Marleau. Couture missed 16 games from January 7th through February 7th last year. Marleau scored just four goals in those 16 games. He scored his other 29 in 66 games mostly (if not always) alongside Couture. That 29 in 66 is a 36 goal pace over 82 games. And have I mentioned Couture is prime for a breakout year as a 25-year-old? My 30 goal projection for Marleau is actually on the low end if you really think about it. For a player at 35-years-old, that’s simply astonishing. Father Time can try, but it will probably take him four or five more years to fully catch up to No. 12.

3 thoughts on “Catch Me If You Can! Patrick Marleau & Father Time”

  1. Where did I say he was a complete player? I have had my qualms about his game like you do, but he’s a big time producer.

    • If he’s so productive they could trade him for a decent power forward with skills PLUS grit and leadership capability, but we’ll never know if they even tried to shop him around. If you put said player on our top line and gave him P.M.’s pp and total ice time I’ll bet the team wouldn’t suffer any loss in overall production. I don’t think SJ is lacking in talent or scoring abilty. Team spirit and intensity might be another matter. Many of Marleau’s sentimental defenders do not see his technical shortcomings (stickhandling, playmaking), only his past “production”. You seem to have a more balanced view generally but this post emphasized stats. Anyway, let’s hope I’m proven totally wrong and that Patrick Marleau has a fantastic year and we hoist the Cup at long last. Enough critiquing of last year by all of us already. Bring on the 2014-15 season!

  2. Couldn’t agree less with you, Andrew. Marleau has his strengths but he’s not a complete player. I don’t care about his goals, lack of injuries or any stats you might cite. I know hockey as a player and fan since the early 50’s), and I know Patty’s game. He’s around zero in plus/minus Iifetime which single stat speaks volumes to me. I just hope he’ll prove me wrong and that he and the team can get it together to win us a cup this year. It’s time.

    Here’s some fun quotes about the misuse of statistics:

    “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses a lamppost–for support rather than illumination.”–Andrew Lang

    “42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.” —Steven Wright

    “The average human has one breast and one testicle.” —Des Machale

    (cited in The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets, by Simon Singh)

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