Maple Leafs’ Patrick Marleau: Taking One for the Team?

During Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Hockey Night in Canada panel reviewed the headlines and dropped a bit of a bombshell for fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Specifically, Nick Kypreos reported:

“It sounds like Marleau and the Leafs are set to part ways. The family is going to move back to San Jose. Patrick Marleau has made it clear to the Toronto Maple Leafs that he would like to get closer to his family once again, which means moving to the West Coast area. Some of the teams that are in the mix, I’m told, are Arizona, Colorado, the Los Angeles Kings.”

Toronto Maple Leafs Patrick Marleau Columbus Blue Jackets David Savard
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Patrick Marleau. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Kypreos went on to speculate how such a trade might happen. For example, he noted that the Kings could buy out Dion Phaneuf’s contract, which would put him back into free agency. (By the way, no one speculated that, if that happened, Phaneuf might end up back with the Maple Leafs. Throughout his career, he has played both the right and left side, and might be more palatable than re-upping Ron Hainsey for another season.)

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What I Learned About Marleau

I’m not as interested in the how’s and what if’s of such a trade or the specifics of how it might happen. What I’m interested in is what I think might have happened between Marleau and Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas to generate the announcement.

Obviously, I cannot know what took place behind the scenes prior to Kypreos’ report. That said, when I recently wrote a post titled “The Maple Leafs Need Patrick Marleau,” I did a bit of research on Marleau, his family background, his leadership, and the values he carries with him and tries to teach to both his young sons and his “adopted sons” who play for the Maple Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Some of the things I found out:

First, Marleau is the son of a mixed-grain farmer in the tiny village of Aneroid, Saskatchewan. He’s a character guy who values sacrifice, work ethic, and the importance of solid relationships.

Second, Marleau is viewed as a father figure on a team with a number of young players. Both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner regularly show up for dinner at his house and even do karaoke with the family.

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Third, Marleau works hard as a father “trying to instill the same values I had growing up.” I don’t doubt he brings that same commitment to the Maple Leafs.

Fourth, Matthews respects Marleau in spades. After he honored Marleau by taking off his own sweater to reveal he was wearing a No. 12 MARLEAU jersey at the All-Star Weekend in San Jose, he explained his tribute by saying. “I can’t explain how great of a guy [Marleau] is and how close we are in our relationship.”

Matthews also added, “He treats everybody so well. It doesn’t matter who you are — a random person on the street or a teammate that plays with him — he treats everybody so kindly.”

There’s a Pattern to Marleau’s Actions

From what I see, Marleau is known for his solid character and values. Obviously, I can’t know what transpired, but I believe that one’s character and respect are revealed through a person’s actions. I’m older (in my mid-70s) now, and my lifetime of experience has helped me learn that people, for good or bad, act consistently.

Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Some Maple Leafs commentators suggest that the Maple Leafs have asked Marleau to waive his no-movement clause and, because of that, are treating him with disrespect. That’s speculation, though I’m not discounting that this might have happened. I don’t know.

However, let’s say, for speculation’s sake, that both the Maple Leafs organization and Marleau respect each other. Let’s also speculate that the respect that Matthews has for his mentor Marleau is mutual. Finally, let’s also speculate that the role of leadership and of father-figure attributed to Marleau by the young Maple Leafs players is also felt by Marleau.

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If these speculations are plausible and, given what I read about Marleau’s character and the respect shown from the men who play on the Maple Leafs, they are within the realm of possibility. In fact, they seem true to form.

So, rather than the team asking Marleau to waive his no-movement clause, what if Marleau approached Dubas and said something like:

“Kyle, I appreciate my time with the team. However, I understand that my salary represents a cap hit that limits the team’s ability to sign Mitch (Marner), Kasperi (Kapanen), Andreas (Johnsson), and Jake (Gardiner) to contracts. Because my family’s home is in San Jose, I’d be willing to waive my “no-move” clause if you could find a way to trade me closer to home.”

Commentators suggest that the possibility of Marleau opting out of his no-move clause is unlikely to happen. However, given what I’ve read about Marleau, it very possibly could happen.

Sometimes Players Sacrifice for Their Teams

Obviously, this is about possibilities. Readers have noted that my posts are “warm-and-fuzzy.” After so many years being a teacher, I admit that I have learned to be more optimistic than cynical. I also believe that, in hockey, players often sacrifice themselves for their teammates and will often do what’s best for the team.

Toronto Maple Leafs Patrick Marleau and team
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Patrick Marleau celebrates with teammates.

In this case, from what I read about Marleau, I don’t think it would be out of character for him to have engaged Maple Leafs’ leadership in conversations about a proposal that might benefit his teammates as the organization plans its way towards being a Stanley Cup contender.

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After all, his sons are watching and learning. That’s what a guy with good character might do.