Patrick Marleau is Not Unlucky, Just Disappointing

The San Jose Sharks 2nd line is made up of second year Matt Nieto, face-of-the-franchise Logan Couture, and lifelong Shark Patrick Marleau. And just as the descriptions of these guys is completely different, their production is night and day as well. But why is that?

Sharks 2nd Line By the Numbers

Goals Assists Points PP Points Sh%
Matt Nieto 4 11 15 4 4.9
Patrick Marleau 11 30 41 18 6.7
Logan Couture 20 29 49 17 11.6

Combined, these three are a -11 with Couture contributing a +5. It must be said, the Sharks 2nd line faces the toughest competition on the ice. But last season, these same players had no issue handling the top opponents in the league.

Patrick Marleau
(Chris LaFrance-USA TODAY Sports)

On points alone, Matt Nieto seemingly drags these boys down. But, in fact, Marleau is the disappointing member of this group. His 11 goals is well off his normal pace as colleagues here at THW have mentioned. But there is an argument that this is due to a severe unlucky streak. Can someone really be that unlucky, though? What if Marleau is just slowing down in his age?

Has Marleau’s Luck Really Run Out?

Sharks 2nd line
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

What defines luck in the sport of hockey? “Advantage or success, considered as the result of chance” is what we get from Webster, but how does that work into the hockey world? Multiple outlets argue that shooting percentage relies on a degree of luck. In the run of play itself however, luck is about bounces that magically eludes a goalie’s glove. Luck is fanning on a shot only to see a goalie over-commit and watch the puck slide into the net anyway. And luck is not the reason Patrick Marleau is playing poorly. That’s because Patty has had plenty of good luck this year.

Exhibit A

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not a good team. I mean, their fans don’t even want their jerseys anymore. Sometimes, lazy backhands sneak through. But, how about this puck that stops in a goalie’s equipment, checks out the area, decides he doesn’t like it, and walks into the back of the net. Unlucky for who exactly?

Originally, Nieto is given credit. But the puck gets by Reimer of its own volition really.

Exhibit B

The hockey gods sometimes smile upon players and drop favorable gifts at their feet. Like this pass from Logan Couture that is deflected high into the air, over the net and right to Marleau’s feet. Patty then whacks it out of the air into the net.

Exhibit C

Even when he gets into the best possible areas, Marleau isn’t quite putting away chances like he did in his golden years. He is mostly untouched on top of Cory Schneider but cannot elevate the puck and makes the Devil goalie’s job easy.

In short, Patrick Marleau isn’t unlucky, Father Time is just catching up to him. At 35, his goal scoring days are running short. The unlucky argument runs on the idea that eventually the bounces will start going his way. Evidently, however, the bounces have already been on his side plenty this year. This isn’t the end of his career however. He’s got plenty to offer to the Sharks.

Patrick Marleau and His Changing Game

In all situations, Marleau’s scoring production is actually holding steady.

11-’12 27 28 55 1.1 1.1 2.2 57.5
12-’13 17 14 31 1.1 0.9 2.0 58.4
13-’14 33 37 70 1.2 1.3 2.5 57.3
14-’15 11 30 41 0.6 1.6 2.2 57.3

His power play production has increased to make up for a subpar even strength performance. 4 goals and 14 assists on the man advantage have kept his points per 60 at his typical range. His goals have taken a serious dip, sure. But at some point in his storied career they have to, right?

Patrick Marleau
(Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

In the last few years, Joe Thornton has stopped shooting the puck. After 2008, Jumbo only got above 150 shots in a season once. Yet, Joe Thornton’s shooting percentage hasn’t dropped substantially. He hovers around the ten percent mark in his new style. This season has him at 13.2% but you have to take into account that nearly half of his goals are of the empty net variety.

The main problem with the “unlucky” argument is the idea that Marleau’s shooting percentage is a product of luck. If you shoot the puck enough, it should go in. Well, that’s just not the case. I can shoot a puck directly into Jonathan Quick’s chest 100 times and I won’t score five to ten times. I’d be surprised if I scored once in 500 tries. The fact is, Marleau’s shots just aren’t as good anymore. Check out the shooting percentage by zone for his last three seasons.

Patrick Marleau
Marleau 2 years ago (

The red on the right chart implies more success scoring goals compared to the league average. Deeper green on the left is Marleau’s absolute scoring. 2 years ago, Patty made a living off scoring in the crease. Mind you, this was the season his percentage was at 11.3.

Patrick Marleau
Marleau’s goals last season (

In 2013-14, Marleau stopped scoring goals in the slot. Compared to the league, he was average at best. A few red marks exist in the higher slot areas and above the dots. This is counter-intuitive as the slot is statistically the easiest to score from, yet his shooting percentage was up from the year before at 11.6.

Patrick Marleau
Marleau’s current season (

This season, Patrick Marleau is above average in no zone whatsoever. The left chart, his absolute shooting percentage, shows his effectiveness outside the slot is slipping as well. As the video with his chance against the Devils showed, he doesn’t have the killer instinct around the net this year.

Be Like Mike Joe

Joe Thornton is knocking over records with ever point he records. His production isn’t plummeting off the face of the planet, but it isn’t increasing either. His goals have stopped but he has found a way to keep his point totals up. Thornton’s game is centered around his passing and stick skills. Marleau needs to embrace the Thornton way.

Patrick Marleau
(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)


Patty’s speed is still with him, he should utilize it. He’s also still a big body at 220 pounds. Patrick Marleau can be an effective forechecker and provide Logan Couture with prime chances. If he can’t put them in the net himself, create the chances for others!

Demoting Marleau will only make the current 2nd line worse and could hurt the team in the playoff run. Reducing his playing time is a good compromise, however. Joe Thornton used to be well above 19 minutes per game on the ice and leading the team. But in the last three seasons, he has been kept under that 19 minute mark. Thornton’s lower minutes have kept him young. Marleau might benefit from the same treatment.

11 thoughts on “Patrick Marleau is Not Unlucky, Just Disappointing”

  1. You are more of an idiot than Andrew Bensch. This article wreaks of your faulty opinion based on mostly irrelavent stats. Marleau is still an elite player. The sharks, as a team, are not finding a way to play strong consistently. Once that consistency is there, everyone’s numbers will shine, including Marleau’s. They just need to figure out how to put forth the effort 60 minutes every night against every opponent. They seem to just show up some nights, and take some other nights off completely. The loss to the Crapitals the other night was an extremely well fought game, that they ended up on the short end of the stick, by combo of unlucky linesman positioning and bad non-calls. But they pushed hard the entire night. The Hurricanes game the few days before was the exact opposite. Tonight’s game is starting out the same way – heavy feet, loose hands, weak shots right at the goalie. The effort isn’t there.

    • Thanks for the feedback, even if a little brutal. However, I feel you missed the point of my article a bit. I am not just pounding on Marleau and saying he’s terrible. I actually make a positive comment about his point production being there still. My issue is all about his goal numbers. I merely look at the patterns and offer a solution.
      I can’t chalk his struggles to team consistency because Couture and Pavs have both done well on goal. So, I went to Marleau’s stats themselves.
      Again, I’m disappointed you disagree, but thank you for the feedback.
      Also, Andrew isn’t such a bad guy. I like a lot of the stuff he writes.

  2. Holey moley. Someone that finally “:gets” the player that is Patty Marleau. Nice comments, Jeff. I have always loved his talent but bemoaned his effort. And it has caught up with him. With dwindling talents (somewhat), it all boils down to his efforts (or lack thereof?). What is happening now is that his talents are eroding and since he never did play like an Owen Nolan (story is, Buster used to try to kick him in the arse because of that), his lack of consistent effort is now showing up in his numbers. Occasionally, he does back-check but even that is becoming more and more invisible (like his goals).

    • Thanks for the feedback. I’d like to think he is still giving his all. But as he ages, this just might be what we get in terms of effort.

  3. Patty is minus 9 and yet he those he has played with this season all are pluses except for Wingels. The reason for that is when the team or line gets caught on a bad line change Patty doesn’t ditch and leave the team hanging. He is more concerned the teams overall success than his plus minus.
    Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Thornton and Couture who are me players and not team players. Hence the reason the C was stripped from Thornton and no letter was given to Couture.

    Take a look at Thornton’s numbers without his league leading empty net goals and empty net assists (which also tell you he isn’t deep in the zone defending to ensure the victory) as well as Couture’s empty net points. When you take those away Marleau’s points are right in par if not better.

    There is also the very important pattern you have failed to recognize yet the organization has been aware of for two seasons now. When the Couture/Marleau line plays less minutes than the Pavelski/ Thornton line the Sharks almost always lose. That’s simply poor player management, poor coaching and a clear sign that the culture DW referred to this summer is still dysfunctional and McLellan is slap dab in the middle of it. The game against the Capitals is a perfect example. Couture/Marleau were up in minutes. Had been on the ice for all 3 Sharks goals. Pavelski/Thornton had been on the ice for two goals against. Tie game and McLellan in his typical arrogance/stupidity switched up the minutes from what had been successful and started playing Paveslki/Thornton over Couture/Marleau. Once that was done the end result was determined.

    Watch the minutes on almost any night the end result is a given.

    A players performance is so much more than their points. If you don’t realize that than you certainly have no business writing an hockey.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I agree a player is much more than his point production. But when that player has consistently produced throughout his career and it drops this much, you have to take notice.
      I also did concede in the article that Joe Thornton’s numbers were skewed by all his empty netters. But Couture is not in that same boat. His production is on the rise. Take a look at my colleague Andrew Bensch’s article a little while back.
      Lastly, I have to disagree with you on the Pavelski/Thornton comment. In goals against per 60, Marleau, Couture, and Nieto are at the bottom (giving up the most) while the Joes are up top giving up the fewest. I find it difficult to say that Pavelski’s production is not what is dragging this average team to the playoffs.
      Again, thanks for the feedback. I’d love to hear more from you.

  4. I highly doubt that PM is going to significantly change his playing style at this point. I don’t see him becoming a fierce fore-checker who gets in the corners and grinds as that would actually take some effort and passion. A lot of people think that Marleau gets a bad wrap and give him a pass on his performance because he has always produced but I assert that his performance is almost solely based on his natural ability. Imagine how great he could have been if he would have spent his career playing as absolutely hard as he could at all times instead of coasting and floating his way through many games.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Jeff. I’m not saying he needs to play like Brent Burns did last year, just shift his focus. Shoot less, look for rebounds, set up Couture for goals, and for god’s sake get dirty in the corners.

      • Marleau is not a good set up player. He is not that great of a playmaker, I would be that most of those assist he has accumulated this year were 2nd assist points. I’ve watched Marleau for many years and clearly can see his vision and passing ability is nowhere near Thornton or Couture. There is a reason why he was shifted from C to W.

        • True, he doesn’t have the vision Thornton does. But, who else in the NHL does? Doesn’t mean he can’t shift his focus. His shots aren’t as dangerous anymore.

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