The Lightning & Pat Maroon Are a Really Good Fit…For Now

During the summer of the infamous 2019-20 Tampa Bay lightning season, one thing was clear, the team needed more grit, and they needed it fast. Coach Jon Cooper thought of one player, in particular, a player fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the St. Louis Blues. That player was Patrick Maroon.

Training camp was fast approaching, but the Lightning finally got Maroon signed to a one-year, $900,000 contract on August 24th (from ‘Hometown Hero Maroon Moves on from Blues, Agrees to One-year Deal with Lightning. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 08/26/2019). Maroon ended up playing just one season with the Blues before heading south, but the send-off he got was fitting for a player that had been in St. Louis for 10 years or more. 

Why was it like that? Maroon finished that lone season with just 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists and was a minus-3. Those stats don’t exactly leap off the page, and say “we can’t lose this guy!” Nonetheless, Blues fans and management alike publicly thanked Maroon for his contribution in helping end the Blue’s Stanley Cup drought. 

Maroon Was an Instant Fan Favorite in St. Louis

Part of it had to do with Maroon having been a St. Louis native. The hometown kid coming home to do some good is always a nice story, especially when it ends with a championship for the local NHL team. Nonetheless, in Maroon’s case, there was a little more to it than that. 

Maroon scored the winning goal against the Dallas Stars in game 7 in the second round of the playoffs in double overtime. He was also a major physical force, particularly in the subsequent series victories over the favored San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins. Against Boston, Maroon was especially pesky. 

The Bruins had just demolished St Louis 7-2 to go up 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, and things started to look a bit bleak. The Bruins had finished with 107 points that season and had just steamrolled the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final, winning four straight. Now they were doing the same thing to St Louis before a change in philosophy got things going for the Blues.

Boston Bruins Tuukka Rask St. Louis Blues' Patrick Maroon
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, makes a save against St. Louis Blues’ Patrick Maroon. (AP Photo/Dilip Vishwanat)

With Maroon leading the way, the third line featuring Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas decided that the best way to turn it around was by bruising the B’s into submission. The Bruins didn’t exactly, “submit” but they gradually wore down as the Blues started banging them all over the ice

The strategy worked, culminating in the first-ever Stanley Cup win in Blue’s history. After the series, Maroon was roundly acknowledged for his importance as a glue type guy that was a great teammate all year, especially when things looked their absolute worst. 

Maroon Forced to Leave Hometown Team

So why didn’t Maroon just stay with the hometown team fresh off their first-ever title? To put it simply, bad timing. The Blue’s had no less than nine restricted free agents to re-sign that off-season (Thomas 2019). Those nine included budding stars like goaltender Jordan Binnington, defenseman Joel Edmundson and forward Oskar Sundqvist. The brass wanted to keep Maroon, but with all those contracts to hand out, the Blues had almost no money left under the salary cap to make any type of real offer.

Enter in Cooper and the Lightning. Cooper knew exactly what he was getting in Maroon. Cooper had coached him in the North American Hockey League while both were with the Texarkana Bandits and knew Maroon would be a good fit.

Another thing was that Maroon hadn’t had any interest from any other club, so it was destined to happen either way unless Maroon decided to retire. 

Maroon’s Up and Down Career

After the NAHL, Maroon moved up to play in the OHL for the London Knights. From there, he was drafted in the sixth round by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but things never panned out for him in Philly. 

The Flyers AHL affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms head coach Greg Gilbert dismissed him from the team after he returned from the 2010 IIHF InLine Hockey Championship, saying “he wasn’t committed to himself…in Patrick’s case, I don’t really think he knew how to train and play at that level.” For the record, Maroon played great for Team USA in the tournament, finishing with seven goals and 14 assists in six games. 

The Flyers then traded his rights to the Anaheim Ducks, where he was assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Maroon had a decent season in Syracuse that got him a training camp invite to Anaheim but nothing else and was sent back to the AHL. Maroon was quickly recalled to the main roster, where he would go on to have a few inconsistent seasons, but the team still kept him around. 

Maroon showed flashes and would see top-line minutes and then be demoted to the fourth line for a few games, and on it went. Then came the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, where it all seemed to click for him. 

Maroon finished with seven goals and four assists for 11 valuable points, helping Anaheim almost get past the powerful Chicago Blackhawks before losing in seven games. 

Patrick Maroon (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

The next season, inconsistency reared its ugly head again, and the Ducks had finally had enough. So in February, Anaheim traded him to the Edmonton Oilers. After scoring just four goals for the Ducks in 56 games, Maroon scored eight in 16 games with the Oilers. 

The following season with Edmonton was Maroon’s best as a pro. He scored 27 goals while playing on the top line most of the season with Connor McDavid. The next season, however, Maroon finished an injury-plagued season with 14 goals and 16 assists in 57 games. Less than the previous year, but still decent production given the games played. Maroon was not re-signed and found his way to the New Jersey Devils, where a herniated disc finished his lone season after 16 games. 

Will the Enigmatic Maroon Help the Lightning Win it Again?

Throughout his career, Maroon has battled conditioning issues, long bouts of inconsistency, and major criticism from coaches and all the while garnering praise from some of the best players in the NHL. Players like Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne in Anaheim, McDavid in Edmonton, and Travis Zajac in New Jersey all had great things to say about Maroon while he was there. The teams, however, all elected to get rid of him one way or another. 

The Lightning are now in year two of the latest edition of the Maroon experiment. In the bubble, he was an integral piece of the pie, helping the team shed its soft reputation and finally deliver the long-awaited second Cup. Maroon came in motivated and in shape, and when he’s been those two things, he’s demonstrated he can be a great asset to any team. The thing is, being both for a sustained length of time has been a real challenge throughout his career. 

After last season’s playoff run, the Lightning saw enough to sign him to a two-year extension. Maroon was retained to be one of those glue guys the Lightning didn’t have for a long time, and to his credit so far, he’s been exactly that. Last season, especially in the playoffs, his physicality and locker-room presence gave the team a boost and an identity they didn’t have before he got here. 

The real issue is, how long will it last? Will Tampa be the team that Maroon finally finds a home with? Or maybe the Lightning will be just another drop on the roller coaster ride that’s been his career since 2011. If it turns out to be the latter, the Lightning will be the latest and probably the last team to cut him loose, but this time for good.