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Will (Should?) the Leafs Bring Back Marleau

I will save all of you on Twitter and Facebook the trouble and say no for you right now.

I get it, the declining numbers and performance don’t make much of a case for him. The good in the room/veteran presence argument doesn’t hold much water, and frankly I’m a maroon for even suggesting it, but after all the dirt has been kicked and jokes made the expense of Marleau, this idea, and me, I hope you consider a few reasons why I have a hard time letting go of the idea of bringing Marleau back on a Jason Spezza type deal.

Well, of all forwards who played at least 400 minutes last season his points per 60 was 1.16, which puts him (*checks notes*) 309th in the league, just behind Luke Glendenning, Cal Clutterbuck, and Josh Leivo. Okay, we’re not off to a great start here, but it could come down to linemates…

Yeah, linemates, if you’re spending all your time playing with Connor Brown and Par Lindholm, how are you supposed to score. Just who exactly did Marleau play with the most out of forwards last year…

Linemate TOI GF
Kasperi Kapanen 618.5 39
Nazem Kadri 537.5 21
Auston Matthews 432.8 25
William Nylander 225.1 7
Connor Brown 185.7 7
Mitch Marner 107.5 5

(all others under 100 minutes)

Crap. Those are some pretty good linemates (and Connor Brown.) Maybe there are some other things that Patrick Marleau was doing well last year that justify a case for bringing back one of my all time favourite NHLers for a victory lap with the Leafs…

Corsi: 50%
Expected Goals: 48%
SH: Nope
PP: 1:46 per game, 10 points

Okay, so maybe he defaults to being a power play specialist. I’m not sure why you’d need such a thing when you have Tavares, Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Kerfoot, Johnsson, Kapanen, as locks ahead of him and Spezza, Mikheyev, Agostino, and Petan as other options, so…

CRAP! I guess there really isn’t much of a case for Marleau beyond the fact that he seems to make Marner and Matthews happy.

I guess we’ve exhausted the argument for why they shouldn’t bring back Marleau, but now it’s time to consider if the Leafs will do it anyway.

Will they bring him back?

If there is one thing I’m certain of, it’s that the Leafs know the numbers better than I do. They’ve spent more than half an hour on Natural Stat Trick looking up Marleau’s WOWYs, they know that there isn’t a statistical advantage to playing him over another replacement level player, but they do have to consider the few other questions…

  1. Does having Marleau back engage their locker room in a meaningful way? Does his experience have a reach beyond just Matthews and Marner, is he someone the team will rally behind in the playoffs? Evidence to date suggests they won’t, but maybe third time is a charm.
  2. Is Patrick Marleau important comfort food for Mike Babcock? Does he need some old players to go to? Is that something that has been completely filled by bringing in Spezza, or do we need to start assembling an old dogs line, that Babcock can trot out for 10 minutes a night (who are we kidding it will be 15) and we can feel like we’ve time traveled back to 2008.
  3. Do they feel they owe something to a veteran that they were willing to dump a first round pick to have another team buy him out? Honestly it would be kind of weird if they did feel they owed something to guy they spent a 1st on to ditch after paying him a fortune in the previous two seasons. Forget I even floated this idea.

On the strength of point number three, I don’t think they will bring him back.

Why even bring this up?

Simply because I can’t shake the feeling that despite all signs pointing to it being a bad idea, there is a really good chance that it could happen. It doesn’t seem like we’ve seen the last of Marleau. He still wants to play and it seems that he has teammates and possibly a coach that would welcome that idea here.

If this were to play out and Marleau returns, he’d add an offensive element to the fourth line, similar to what Ennis provided last season, although you could argue that it might not be as effective as Ennis. He’s not really at risk of bumping any budding superstars out of the lineup, as the Leafs have nothing but question marks left as futures, at least until we’re ready to anoint Nick Robertson the next great Leafs winger. Bracco, Korshkov, Mikheyev, Agostino, Petan, Marchment and Engvall are not sure things, even in a bottom of the roster capacity, and perhaps the tie going to the veteran is something that persist for another year.

As for us. Let’s hope that Marleau finds a happy home somewhere in the Western Conference. He seems like a great veteran leader for the Vegas Golden Knights, and his price is pretty much all they can afford as well. As a fan of Marleau, I’d hate to see his career end on a buyout with his iron man streak still intact. I’m still dealing with my feelings about Dave Andreychuk having his career end on waivers dump, and would like to see more for Marleau. Still, I’d prefer it not come at the expense of a spot on the Leafs roster.