Marleau on target to eclipse Mr. Hockey

Brian Costello
Patrick Marleau (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Today’s Rumor Roundup reports the San Jose Sharks are looking into starting contract negotiations with pending UFA Patrick Marleau.

That’s a wise thing not just because Marleau is a productive producer who will be in demand by a lot of teams come July, but also because it’s a smart public relations move for the Sharks.

The second overall pick in the 1997 NHL draft has a ton of attributes that are worth pointing out.

• He’s durable. He’s missed just 30 games in 16 seasons.

• He’s a proven scorer with 12 seasons with 20-plus goals (five of them in the 30s and another in the 40s). He’s hit the point-per-game mark in three seasons – and on pace to do it again this season – and been close in three others.

• Marleau is in the last year of a four-year deal with an annual cap hit of $6.9 million. And with the Sharks near the top of the NHL standings and firing on all cylinders, there’s a feeling 2013-14 could be a very special year. Maybe there’s an appetite that pending UFAs Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Marleau want to stick together and are willing to settle for hometown discounts.

• He made the NHL just a few weeks after turning 18 based largely on his big frame and deceptive speed. Even at 34, he hasn’t lost a step. This is what a teammate told Adam Proteau is this week’s printed issue of The Hockey News: “You hear about his speed, but until you see it firsthand, you don’t appreciate it,” Boyle said. “He’s a special skater.” Sharks GM Doug Wilson says Marleau has an unsurpassed level of physical conditioning and believes he’s a young 34.

Marleau is on a trajectory to accomplish something extremely special in the history of the game. Based on his durability, conditioning, speed and scoring ability, Marleau could easily play until the age of 40 and even beyond. If Marleau can stay relatively healthy this season and six more to follow (averaging a reasonable 77 games per season), he’ll eclipse 1,700 regular season games at the age of 40. And that would put him within one season of bettering Gordie Howe, the NHL’s all-time games played leader with 1,767.

What’s really remarkable is that Marleau started in the NHL so young and has remained so durable, that he would have been on target to top Howe at the age of 39 if it weren’t for 116 games missed due to two lockouts.

Wouldn’t the Sharks love the attention that milestone would generate? Doing one better than Mr. Hockey?

Signing Marleau to a seven-year contract would put that within the realm of it happening in San Jose. Then Sharks’ fans could start a countdown to Mr. Hockey watch.

As it stands now, Marleau sits 10th on the all-time list of players who have had the longest careers with one NHL organization. Let’s watch him mount this ladder:

1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, 1,564 games

2. Alex Delvecchio, Detroit, 1,549 games

3. Steve Yzerman, Detroit, 1,514 games

4. Stan Mikita, Chicago, 1,394 games

5. Joe Sakic, Colorado (Quebec), 1,378 games

6. Ken Daneyko, New Jersey, 1,283 games

7. Shane Doan, Phoenix (Winnipeg) 1,273 games

8. Henri Richard, Montreal, 1,256 games

9. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey, 1,233 games

10. Patrick Marleau, San Jose, 1,193 games

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN