I guess the Leafs Ironman isn’t exactly a WAR Machine. (I’m sorry, I will try to delete this.)
Anyways, Patrick Marleau has long been one of my favourite players in the league, I guess since I’m qualifying my love of Marleau, and trying to establish how excited I was about him coming to Toronto, you can probably tell that I’m not going to say a whole lot of nice things about his 2018-19 season, and generally not have a lot of optimism about 2019-20 either.
The thing about Marleau is that I’m not the only one who is particularly fond of him. Pretty much the entire Leafs roster seems to like this guy as well, and his status as team Dad is somewhat important on a very young roster with a coach that isn’t known for being a “players coach.”
Marleau serves a purpose, and even with his production declining he’s still capable of filling a role within the NHL, what it is remains to be seen, but with a $6.25M cap hit coming up in the final year of his deal, well, he better be one hell of a Dad.
Age catches up with us all. It feels weird to write about Marleau like he’s a senior citizen when he’s only a year older than me, but as far as pro sports goes, “he old” and I’m probably not a late bloomer.
Marleau had a steady decrease in icetime throughout the year, starting the season around 17 and half minutes and finishing at around 15 and a half. The plan to have Marleau as Matthews wing was scrapped fairly quickly, despite Nylander not being in the lineup and while his performance didn’t necessarily warrant the 3rd line role, Marleau was able to dodge the fourth line this season.
Marleau had 5 multi-point nights this season, but not a single multi-goal game. Considering that goal scoring is his bread and butter and that he was still getting paired with offensively capable centers, well, what comes next isn’t going to be encouraging.
Stats and charts
So yeah, as the year went on it was pretty clear that Patrick Marleau isn’t a $6.25M/yr player. The interest facts about that significant bounce in February are that 4 of Marleau’s 2 point games came in February, and it also included a Western road trip which is significant since Marleau put up 12 points in 16 games against his former home, the Pacific division.
These were Marleau’s numbers for the year, and what we see is significant drops in both his goals and points per 60, despite the fact his most common linemates were Nazem Kadri and Kasperi Kapanen. If you think maybe it was his other linemates pulling him down, the next most common linemates were Auston Matthews and William Nylander. The Connor Brown combination was an unfortunate thing that existed late in the seasons and the playoffs and didn’t impact his overall numbers.
Marleau’s most successful work came when playing with Kadri and either Kapanen or Nylander, but both Kapanen and Nylander had improved xGF% away from Marleau. While Kadri was stronger with Marleau, we’ve already touched on Kadri’s season being one he’d like to do-over and I suspect we’ll be saying the same about Nylander when we get to him.
Generally what the stats are saying is the same thing your eyes are saying, and that is that Patrick Marleau is slowing down. Perhaps the increased number of penalties Marleau took, jumping from 8 penalties in 2017-18, to a still low 14 in 2018-19, though he did take 5 penalties in March, which is quite high for a guy like Marleau.
For now I’m putting blind trust in it all getting sorted out, and I intend to enjoy the Marleau-Matthews-Nylander show. We could realistically see a line with 3 30 goal scorers on it, assuming that Nylander signs before December.
Auston Matthews surprises the crowd by reviling a Patrick Marleau All-Star Jersey. He then has a decent showing at the Accuracy Shooting Competition. #NHLAllStar #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/C9duTFPfzB
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) January 26, 2019
Probably not good when your highlight for the year is another player, but it speaks to how much the Leafs players love him. How respected his career is, and how as much a $6.25M cap hit can be, it’s attached to pretty great person who deserves a proper send off.
Yikes. I dunno, I really like this guy and when it looked like a drama filled year for the Leafs from the outside, you’ve gotta hand it to the guy holding the team together on the inside. Marleau did still manage to score 16 goals and put up 37 points as a bottom six winger, and for that role isn’t bad, but it doesn’t meet the expectations attached to that contract. I will give Patrick a very generous C-.
That contract. The $6.25M hit with a full no movement clause on a 35+ year old. There’s no running from that. If Patrick Marleau wants to play for the Leafs, he’s going to play for the Leafs. The upside to that is it will make everyone in the room happy. It gives Marleau a shot at a 1700 game, and 1200 point career. And although he should scratched on certain nights at this point, it’s potentially giving him a shot at a 800 consecutive games played streak.
For Marleau playing for the Leafs is also his last best shot at a Stanley Cup, since if there was a team that was willing to take on his cap hit, it would not likely be a playoff team. Marleau is likely returning…
but maybe he isn’t.
For all the talk about him coming back with a magic one piece stick that is going to fix everything, there’s the reality that Marleau needs to show the intention of returning to the NHL in order to stick around for his $3M July 1st signing bonus payment. After that he’s owed $1.25M for the season. That’s a bit easier to walk away from, though I can’t say I would ever consider it (though I also haven’t been pulling in more than that consistently over the past two decades.)
Perhaps a retired Marleau can find a home as a cap hit on an Arizona or Ottawa roster, but this is entirely wanting to believe that the stars will line up perfectly for the select group of Leafs fans that monitor the cap situation (too) closely.
I’m preferring to embrace reality and that is that Marleau is an extremely expensive 4th line winger who is a buffer to make sure the Leafs have cap space in 2020-21 to put towards re-signing Jake Muzzin, Travis Dermott, and perhaps still have a little spreading around money. The Leafs are likely to have another influx of young players, partially because of Marleau’s contract, but he is a proven mentor and having Marleau work with someone like Nic Petan seems extremely beneficial.
Two summers ago I was thrilled that the Leafs were bringing in Marleau, and was firmly in the “don’t worry about year three” camp. I would now like to formally say I was wrong not to worry about year three, but I do not apologize for enjoying most of the past two seasons of one of the best players of the 21st century take his final laps.