By virtue of being born in the Bay Area the same year that the then expansion San Jose Sharks were born (1991), I have naturally followed the team my entire life.
Granted, my memory of the early years '91-'98 is a bit fuzzy due to being a child. Since I can remember, everything this team does or doesn't do is in correlation with my mood every day of the NHL season.
Naturally, when popular long tenured Sharks move onto either retirement or new teams, (see Nolan, Owen; Ricci, Mike; Roenick, Jeremy) a little part of me dies inside.
(Okay, I know that line is cheesy, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out another way to make my point).
Yes, a little part of me dies inside because a part of the good ole' days wouldn't be returning.
Owen Nolan will never blast home another slap shot from center ice in Game Seven of a playoff series for the Sharks.
There will be no more "REEEEEECCCHHEEEEE!" chants for Mike Ricci.
And no more inspired performances from Jeremy Roenick in teal.
Needless to say, the departures of these three players from the Sharks were disappointing to say the least.
None of those match up to how weird and disappointing it would be to lose Patrick Marleau.
Marleau is the San Jose Sharks, the San Jose Sharks are Patrick Marleau.
In sickness or in health, for better or for worse, Marleau and the Sharks belong together.
Roenick was a Shark for two seasons and it was sad to hear him hang up the skates sans Stanley Cup ring.
Ricci was a Shark for six-and-a-half seasons and seeing him in a Coyote's jersey was just awful.
Nolan was a Shark for seven-and-a-half seasons and he was the heart and soul of team teal in the late 90's. The fact the Sharks haven't brought him back as a free agent in recent years still bothers fans like myself because he still means so much to this area.
These three were some of the most cherished Sharks in history. But the loss of either of these players won't even compare to how it will feel if the Sharks lose Patrick Marleau.
Marleau has been a Shark for 12 seasons. He is their second overall draft choice from the 1997 NHL draft, he was their captain for four-and-a-half seasons and their leading goal scorer the past two seasons.
He owns almost every single franchise record. Goals, assists, power play goals, game winning goals, games played, you name it.
Marleau is the franchise leader, he is a talent that has given his fan base a multitude of iconic moments, none better than his series winning goal against the rival Detroit Red Wings in the Western semi's.
San Jose is his home.
And while I have been a major critic of Marleau throughout the years, and wished he had been traded once or twice in recent off seasons. Now it is clear to me that Marleau belongs in San Jose.
Disregard the fact he had his captaincy taken away from him and disregard the fact that just two years ago he was coming off a regular season with just 48 points and a minus-19 plus/minus rating because he has turned a page.
He has posted back to back career highs in goals with 38 and 44 respectively. He is one of head coach Todd McLellan's go-to penalty killers. Marleau is a solid plus-37 over the last two years and averaged just 20 penalty minutes over that span.
Plus, in the playoffs he has proved to be a force when healthy. During the series with Anaheim last season, he wasn't healthy and he still managed the team's only two game winning goals of the playoffs.
But this year he was healthy and while he was rusty in the first round against Colorado (three points in six games and a minus-2 rating), he came to life in the second two rounds.
And as anyone will tell you, if you're going to pick a round to play your best hockey, the last round your team plays is always the best choice.
Marleau tallied four points against Detroit in round 2 with both goals coming as the game-winners of wins three and four of the series for San Jose.
But it wasn't until the Western Conference final when we really saw Marleau take off and keep his team in every game.
The Sharks may have been swept but three of the games were one goal games (ignore the empty netter by Chicago in Game 4) and the only game that wasn't a one goal contest was a two-goal loss.
If it wasn't for Marleau being on the top of his game, the sweep would have looked completely one sided as Patty scored five goals and an assist in the four game series.
Yup, the Sharks scored seven total goals in the series and Marleau had five.
While I have at times stated that I am indifferent on whether the Sharks should re-sign Marleau this off season, my mind has changed after taking time to fully analyze the situation.
Marleau is a part of the solution, not part of the problem.
The Sharks are going to have to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in order to win the Stanley Cup in the years to come.
Overall the Sharks couldn't match the speed of the Blackhawks.
Marleau was one of two forwards in San Jose's lineup that had the speed to match the fastest the Blackhawks have to offer.
The other, Jamie McGinn, barely got enough ice time to make an impact and is still an up and coming talent.
Therefore, with the Sharks needing to beat the Blackhawks to win the cup, why would they let by far their best weapon against Chicago, walk away?
Marleau is still in his prime, and still doing his best to deliver the first Stanley Cup victory to the Bay Area.
And until he exits his prime, he ought to remain in San Jose because players with his combination of talents are rare to find.
So while nobody can claim to know the exact formula a team needs to win the cup, one thing is clear:
Taking a player like Patrick Marleau away from the Shark formula would be a major set-back.
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