Patrick Marleau is off to a great start for the San Jose Sharks...again. Sharks fans have seen this before from Marleau, but the big question is should San Jose Sharks fans buy or sell Marleau's hot start to the 2013-14 season?
Marleau has scored at least one point in each of Team Teal's first eight games this season, tallying seven goals and 11 points. He has scored a goal in seven of his club's first eight contests.
The Aneroid, Saskatchewan, native has been particularly dangerous on the power play. Marleau has four goals and seven points while the Sharks have had the man advantage.
But some fans have reason to be skeptical. The former 40-goal scorer was off to a similar start last season. Marleau started the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign with points in his first six games, including two goals in each of the first four games of the season.
After five games, Marleau had already scored nine goals. But then he slumped. He only scored one goal in his next 10 games and finished with just 17 tallies for the season. That put Marleau on pace for 29 goals over a full 82-game season, close to the 30 he registered the previous year.
But consistency was a big issue for Marleau. It seemed he was either red-hot or as cold as the ice he skated on. Marleau had point-scoring streaks of six and five games, but also scored just once in the Sharks' final 16 games.
There are several reasons to believe Marleau will be less streaky than he was last year.
First, the Sharks as a team have more depth and talent than they did a year ago. San Jose can easily roll three solid scoring lines at opposing teams with the talented Joe Pavelski now centering the third line.
Having Brent Burns at forward for an entire year and adding the speedy Tyler Kennedy and the talented Tomas Hertl to the lineup means that the Sharks are not solely relying on Marleau, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture to produce offense.
"We're getting a lot of contributions from different players," Pavelski told David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News when asked about the difference between this year's fast start and a similar beginning to last season. "We're playing a more aggressive game, a faster game definitely at times."
The Sharks depth has showed up on the scoreboard. Last year, the big four of Marleau, Thornton, Pavelski and Couture got off to hot starts, but only four other players on the San Jose roster had goals in the first seven games.
This year, a total of 14 different Sharks have scored at least one goal in the club's first eight games, and 19 different players have at least one point. San Jose is first overall in the league in goals scored, and it's not just due to the strong play of a handful of stars. That means opposing coaches will not always be able to match up their top defensive players against Marleau, who should continue to see top-six minutes at even strength and plenty of time on the power play.
In addition, Marleau is in his contract year this season. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer unless his agent comes to a new deal with GM Doug Wilson before then. The last time Marleau was in a contract year, he compiled a career-best 44 goals and 83 points back in 2009-10.
Marleau will be 35 before the start of next season, so he knows this is likely his last opportunity to sign a lucrative NHL contract. That will give him even more incentive to put up big numbers.
It is highly unlikely Marleau will stay on his current pace, which would give him roughly 72 goals and 113 points over the course of a full season. But expect him to have a stronger campaign than he had over the past two years and to finish the season with numbers close to 35 goals and 75 points. That would set up Marleau for one more big contract and help the Sharks win a lot of hockey games.
So when it comes to Marleau, fans would be better off buying this year.
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