Over the course of August, THW’s daily Sharks reporter Andrew Bensch will be previewing and predicting the season ahead for each San Jose player. Thus far, the series has previewed each member of the projected top line in Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and newcomer Joel Ward. Today’s column takes a look at veteran scorer Patrick Marleau.
2014-15 Player Card Stats:
2014-15 Advanced Stats:
Goals-for percentage: 44.6
Corsi-for percentage: 50.6
There is no doubt that Patrick Marleau had an awful season last year. The soon-to-be 36-year-old sniper had been money in the bank for 30 goals the past few years until falling off last year. Clearly some of the reasoning for his poor production was simply bad performance. He wasn’t executing at both ends the way he has in the past. However, Marleau was also a victim of terrible luck last season. His 98.6 PDO isn’t crazy below average, but below average nonetheless, and his personal shooting percentage took an unprecedented dip. For a large portion of the season, he was shooting under 7 percent. That is a crazy-low percentage for a guy with a career mark of over 13 percent.
Last season, Marleau finished with an 8.2 percent success rate on his 233 shots. Both those numbers are below normal for Marleau in recent years, with the percent rate being far below normal. It is highly likely that Marleau won’t see any significant increase in shot total at 36, but 230-240 range is a fair expectation. Therefore, if Marleau were to score on 11.5 percent of 235 shots next season (similar to his 2012-13 and 2013-14 percentages but below his career average), that would equate to 27 goals. One down year doesn’t mean he can’t bounce back to his normal averages. In fact, I have recently made a bold prediction that Marleau will have a 30-goal season this year.
The team around Marleau is going to be far better than it was a year ago. Forward depth and defense depth are no question going to be improved, and there is a significant chance that Martin Jones will provide better goaltending than the average play Antti Niemi provided. All of that means Marleau’s goals-for percentage will rebound nicely and he will likely be fresher at even strength if head coach Peter DeBoer does the smart thing and takes him off the penalty kill altogether.
2015-16 Player Card Stats:
2015-16 Advanced Stats:
Goals-for percentage: 52.5
Corsi-for percentage: 53.8
Marleau is slated to open the season alongside usual linemate Logan Couture. While these two had a disappointing year defensively in 2014-15, they are likely to start out the season with the best all-around right wing they have ever played with. That, of course, is Tomas Hertl. In recent years, that spot on the Marleau/Couture line has been a revolving door. Marty Havlat fit well there during the lockout-shortened season, Matt Nieto fit in well down the stretch of 2013-14, but last year Nieto had bad luck, and Tommy Wingels failed to cement himself as a top-six player in that spot. At the end of last season though, Hertl wound up in that role next to Couture and Marleau and looked good. It was a small sample, but as you will see in a couple days, I also expect a bounce-back year from Hertl. This trio has a chance to be really good next season. And even if Hertl gets moved around at some point, the next likely player to fill that spot is Joel Ward. Marleau, Couture and Ward is a combination that sounds quite exciting on paper, as well.
By taking Marleau off the penalty kill and limiting his time spent in a shut-down role (more defensive responsibilities to the first and third lines), Marleau will be fresher and facing slightly easier competition than the last couple years. These little nuances will help Marleau’s production bounce back to the 30-goal, 65-plus point player he has been in recent years.