Patrick Marleau has been one of my favourite players over the past two decades of hockey, so I have to admit I was pretty excited last month to see one of my favourite players join one of my favourite teams. That was my completely emotional reaction to the signing.
Giving the deal marginally more thought, the idea of $6.25M AAV over three years for a 37 year old (38 at season start) certainly gave me a bit more concern, but ultimately I’ve landed on the fact that I’m okay with it and I will allow myself to enjoy one of my favourite players in the twilight over the career the way I enjoyed so many swan songs during the Quinn era.
Since I’m here largely to be the clickbait guy, I’ve put together a handy listicle for you to reference on why you too should be smitten with Patty M.
1. He hasn’t missed a game since his 30th He’s not Joffrey Lupul who is probably more model airplane glue than ligament at this point, Marleau (knock on wood) doesn’t get hurt. Over that time he’s been doing that he’s also frequently been tapped on the shoulder to represent Canada in international competition, and played on a perennial playoff team.
You could make the case that all of that will catch up to an athlete in their late 30s, but you’re just being a dick and should just let me have this point.
2. He’s versatile. Centre or Wing, look at that!
Okay, he’s probably going to be on the wing. He’s probably going to be on Kadri’s wing, but Gord forbid that one of Matthews, Kadri, or Bozak be hurt, Marleau gives the Leafs a capable option up the middle.
You could also argue that they already have that with Dominic Moore and William Nylander, but I don’t know why you insist on disagreeing with me over everything.
4. His HERO chart shows he belongs in the top nine…
This probably isn’t much comfort to show that the Leafs have just shelled out $6.25M a year on an old middle six winger, but we’ll divorce ourselves from the dollars for now, and just look at the player. He’s a fit. Marleau, van Riemsdyk, Hyman, Brown, Marner, Nylander, Kapanen, and Komarov is pretty nice depth to have on the wing.
Throw in Leivo, Soshnikov, and Martin and it is depth city. Thrown in Kerby Rychel and you’re just being silly.
6. His contract isn’t as horrible as we want to believe it is.
Year 1: Obviously the Leafs can afford it, that’s why he’s here.
Year 2: Damn, we’re paying Marleau a lot, but having him under contract is good insurance in case Bozak, van Riemsdyk, or Komarov leave. Also if one of the younger players isn’t panning out like we want.
Year 3: This is the “oh shit year”. This is the year we ask why the Leafs are paying $6.25M for a 40 year old when they have the Marner and Matthews contracts to deal with.
It won’t be a problem.
Most of the heavy lifting has been done for the Leafs already. The deal is structured so there is only $4.25M of salary in 2019-20, and on top of that $3M of it is in the form of signing bonuses.
Essentially all the Leafs need to do is wait until the $3M has been paid and deal Marleau (and likely a kicker) to team that can absorb a $6.25M cap hit. This is probably easier said than done, but it’s probably not worth stressing over where Marleau will fit in the lineup 3 years from now, he won’t be here.
7. He was one to the top 90 forwards in the league last year for producing offense
Let’s just check to see who he was playing with…
Okay, those are a couple of really good players, but it’s worth noting he did pretty decent with Ward and Tierney too.
Since Marleau is being brought in as a complimentary player to provide offense (likely for Matthews or Kadri) it should be reassuring that he was able to do so for Thornton and Pavelski.
Sticking with Marleau’s numbers, he had a high shooting percentage last season (14.2%), but it was just off his career average of 13.4%. He’s also been consistently above 10% throughout his career with the exception of his 8.2% season two years ago, where he still managed 19 goals and 57 points.
Marleau is not going to get better with age (unlike Merlot, though even this is generally not the case) and expecting him to repeat a 25 goal season that was aided by playing with Thornton and Pavelski is a stretch dream, but Marleau should have enough supplemental goal production left in him to stay north of 15 goals a season and still add value to the team, even if his contract isn’t ideal.
9. I figured if I buried this point far enough down in the post I could get away with talking about it here, but *sigh* there’s no doubt that part of the reason that Marleau has value to the Leafs is that he brings experience and leadership. He’s a former captain which means a lot to a lot of people even if you don’t think it matters. Some of those people who think it matters are in the Leafs dressing room and front office and adding Marleau to a very young team is giving them comfort they need to proceed with the Leafs entering a very competitive stage in the franchise’s existence.
The fact that Babcock is familiar with and a fan of Marleau matters. Babcock has done well with getting the last productive years of hockey out of a lot of players and he feels he can do with Patrick. That’s good, but I get that it’s no less infuriating when the numbers show that Radulov is a better player or that Sam Gagner is a more affordable gamble.
11. Jeremy Roenick vs. Patrick Marleau.
This is one of the most amusing feuds in hockey…
From Roenick’s book, J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey:
“One night I even went to his home to discuss the struggles he was going through. It was around Thanksgiving. I was with my family at home. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the team and how dominant the Sharks could be if Marleau would realize his potential. After thinking about it all day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I left my family, climbed into my car and drove to Marleau’s home. My intention wasn’t to yell at him. I wanted to inspire him, to let him know that his teammates were behind him. I went there to tell him that I believed he could be one of the league’s very best players if he just altered his game slightly. He needed to play with more of an edge. He needed to show some bigger balls when the game was on the line.”What no one seems to understand is that I believe Marleau is a special talent . . . Marleau frustrated me when I played with him because I wanted more from him. He was earning $6.9 million per season and I just didn’t believe he brought the superstar effort that you would expect from that caliber of player.”I tried to tell him that that night, but I could tell 10 minutes into our conversation that I was wasting my time. He considered my arrival at his house an intrusion. He listened to me, but he never did anything to change the way he was.”
Of course there’s plenty of evidence that Marleau is in fact a very good player both in the regular season and the playoffs, but I’m just happy we’ll get to add Leafs fans being outraged at Roenick to the list of things Leafs fans get outraged about.
12. If some of the other points didn’t make it clearly enough, Patrick Marleau is a solid addition to the Leafs for depth and insurance. He can play C/LW across the top nine forward spots creating a situation where we can all start the year being annoyed with the fact that Martin will be playing on the fourth line over Leivo, Soshnikov, and Kapanen.
He makes it so the Leafs have preemptively dealt with who should be added at the trade deadline, and that should mean the Leafs with go into a deep 2018 draft with their high picks intact.
He’s the insurance veteran if the Leafs decide to move on from Bozak, van Riemsdyk, and Komarov next summer. I’m sure money could be better spent on the first two, but “LALALALALA, I can’t hear you over all the Patty Marleau love in here.”
Bottom line, he seems like a nice hockey boy who wants to win hockey games for the Maple Leafs. We’ll deal with the rest later.