Coming off their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup final, the San Jose Sharks are poised to be the best team in the Pacific Division in 2016-17.
All of San Jose's key players from last season are set to return, and free-agent additions in scoring winger Mikkel Boedker and bottom-pair puck mover David Schlemko have addressed their only weaknesses from last season.
However, despite last year's team success and high expectations going into this year, rumors regarding a potential trade of San Jose's longest tenured player and career Shark Patrick Marleau never seem to go away. Marleau was "reportedly" willing to waive his no-move clause in the middle of last season. After the playoffs ended, those same talking heads continued to bring up the idea of him being moved.
That said, If you're a Sharks fan and a Marleau fan, you can be happy to know he is not going to be traded before the new season begins.
No, this is not inside information, I don't claim to have any inside sources within either the Sharks camp nor the Marleau camp. This is merely what this writer (who has generally been a Marleau critic) believes to be common sense.
History & Longevity
Even though Marleau is a far cry from the elite first liner he used to be, he is still an effective scorer and is the single most recongizeable player in franchise history. The 2016-17 season will be Marleau's 19th NHL season and 20th year as a Shark if you include the missed season of 2004-05. With over 1,400 games played with the Sharks, Marleau currently sits 9th all time in games played with a single franchise. Barring major injury he will jump to seventh on that list this season and if he plays in 2017-18, he very easily could reach the top-five by surpassing legends Ray Bourque (1,518) and Steve Yzerman (1,514).
Marleau is a legend in San Jose. He remains a top-9 forward capable of 50 points. And while I have said this before in other articles, it cannot be repeated enough that he is just 19 goals short of 500 for his career. Considering he hasn't scored fewer than 19 goals in a non-lockout season since his third year in the league, he's a safe bet to reach that milestone this upcoming season. Marleau hasn't missed a game since the 2008-09 season. The last seven seasons he has played 82, 82, 82, 48, 82, 82 and 82 games.
Trading Marleau now, with a milestone like 500 goals on the horizon, would be an unnecessary gut punch to a fan base that just two years ago had to suffer through a miserable 12-month span of being reverse swept by the Kings in 2014 and then missing the playoffs in 2015. The fans are pumped up for this upcoming season and the Sharks are extremely unlikely to get a return for Marleau that makes them immediately better. All the local people who have supported the Sharks over the years deserve to see Marleau score his 500th in a Sharks sweater.
Better Linemates This Season
Not only is Marleau pushing towards an individual milestone this upcoming season, but given the addition of Mikkel Boedker, Marleau's plus/minus rating should improve. Last season Marleau often played third-line center between Matt Nieto and Joel Ward, not exactly the most offensively productive linemates.
This upcoming season, I fully expect to see 2015 first-round pick Timo Meier make the club out of training camp and be a top-9 forward. Let's say the Sharks decide to open the season with the same top-six that was so effective in the playoffs. Lines of Tomas Hertl, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Joonas Donskoi, Logan Couture and Ward leaves a third line of Meier, Marleau and Boedker. That is one insanely skilled and fast third line.
If Boedker and Meier end up as Marleau's most frequent linemates, it is hard to imagine No. 12 failing to reach the 25-goal mark that he did last year. Plus his assist total should rise to around 30-35 with his plus/minus improving closer to an even rating. Not to mention, it is a contract year and Marleau always seems to have strong campaigns in contract years.
Marleau will turn 37 before the season starts, but he can still skate and always stays in great shape. He's much more of a complementary player at this stage, but with more talent around him, it wouldn't shock me at all if Marleau had a better year this season than he's had the previous two. Facing third line competitition with two top-six caliber linemates, motivation of a contract year and the 500 milestone? That's a recipe for a nice season from Mr. Shark.