For a guy who so clearly would rather avoid attention, negative or positive, Patrick Marleau sure has managed to generate a lot of press. Some of it has to do with being the longest tenured member and former captain of a powerhouse San Jose Sharks team that hasn’t managed to win the Stanley Cup, despite that being the annual expectation. Some of it has to do with rumors of a rocky relationship with former coach Ron Wilson. Some of it has to do with the fact that he’s a remarkable hockey player who holds just about every significant record in the history of the Sharks franchise. But most of it is due to Jeremy Roenick’s gigantic and incessantly flapping mouth.
Roenick’s on-camera rants criticizing Marleau’s playoff efforts went the hockey version of viral back in 2011, and the storyline has been rehashed many times since across a variety of mediums. A chapter in Roenick’s recently released autobiography was dedicated to his issues with Marleau as a teammate. Roenick’s analysis of his former teammate seemed to carry weight because, well, they were former teammates. Marleau’s detractors jumped at the chance to use a potential Hall of Famer’s critiques against the much maligned Marleau as “proof.” The San Jose Sharks family, including broadcasters Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda, captain Joe Thornton, and a number of other teammates came to Marleau’s defense, as did former divisional opponents Marty Turco and Mike Modano, and ex-GM Craig Button.
But in a perfectly illustrated example of why politicians pay so much to produce attack ads during campaign season, the voice that shouted loudest was heard by the most. Does Jeremy Roenick have credibility? Of course he does. He’s competed at the highest levels of hockey the world has to offer. He has represented his country in a gold medal Olympic game. He’s been to the Stanley Cup finals. He played for storied franchises in Chicago and Philadelphia, and experienced hockey in non-traditional markets like Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose. He was Patrick Marleau’s teammate for two years. He scored over 500 NHL goals and well over 1,000 NHL points. He’s a legend. He’s also a noted and self-admitted ham.
This is a man who thrives off attention and controversy. Is he trying to stir the pot when he periodically shits on Marleau’s parade? Probably not. He has an agenda. He doesn’t like Marleau. But people who crave attention seek it even when they’re not actively attempting to create it, and Roenick’s incredibly public digs at Marleau are a direct result.
But, as Pierre LeBrun of ESPN pointed out, the facts don’t support the criticism. Marleau is, once again, smack dab in the middle of the spotlight that he’d just as soon shun as a result of an off-the-charts start to this little bastard midget baby of a season. He became the first player since World War I to start a season with four straight multi-goal games. He disappointed the hockey world by scoring just once in game five, to give him a grand total of nine goals in the season’s first five games. Nine. Toss in four assists for good measure, and Marleau is scoring at a pace that would come just two points shy of matching Wayne Gretzky’s greatest season over 82 games. So naturally, he’s turning a few heads.
But rather than simply lauding his extraordinary play, Marleau’s hot start is unavoidably being looked at within the context of Roenick’s rants. It’s too bad, but it’s also reality. It also presents an opportunity for the hockey world to ask an important question – was the criticism ever really warranted? Let’s look at the facts:
- As of January 29, 2013, Patrick Marleau has scored 396 career goals and 843 points. If he plays just 300 more NHL games scoring at his career average pace, he’ll retire with over 500 goals and close to 1,100 points.
- Patrick Marleau has scored more playoff goals than any active player besides first ballot Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.
- Patrick Marleau is 15th all-time in game-winning playoff goals. In NHL history. He is one of three active players in the top-15. Players just above him include Guy Lafleur, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, and Joe Nieuwendyk, all four of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
- Patrick Marleau is 24th all-time in game-winning regular season goals. In NHL history. He is one of just four active players in the top-25. Players just above him include Ron Francis, Mike Bossy, Glen Anderson, and Joe Sakic, all four of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
- Patrick Marleau has won an Olympic Gold Medal.
- Patrick Marleau has scored three playoff hat tricks.
- Patrick Marleau scored nine goals and 13 points over nine games in back-to-back Western Conference Finals appearances in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The entire remainder of the San Jose roster scored 11 goals over the same span, and the Sharks were the only team in the NHL to reach the league’s final four in both of those seasons.
- Patrick Marleau has scored at least 30 goals and registered 30 assists in six of the last seven seasons prior to the current campaign. He has played at least 74 games every season since he broke into the league at age 18, and would have been the youngest player in NHL history to ever reach the 1,000 game plateau if not for the lockout-cancelled 2004-05 season. Funny that a player accused of inconsistent effort could put up numbers that paint such a picture of consistency.
So why does anyone care what Jeremy Roenick have to say? Why is it common practice to accept opinion and disregard fact, when the opposite value has been instilled in just about all of us since the first day of school? The reality is, Patrick Marleau is one hell of a hockey player, playing a major role for one of the most consistently excellent teams in the NHL over the past decade. If he manages to finish his career with a Stanley Cup, the Hall of Fame might very well come calling. Even if it doesn’t, he’d still have something that Jeremy Roenick never will.