Let’s be honest: Patrick Marleau is never going to be a magnet for over-the-top attention. He’s tucked away in San Jose, he’s the most unassuming guy you’re likely to meet and he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve when he’s on the ice.
But let’s be just as honest and give Marleau all the credit we can for being one of the most dependable elite talents of his generation. Because if you don’t believe he’s been crucial to the Sharks’ success this season, you haven’t been watching closely.
And you definitely haven’t spoken with his teammates.
“He does everything for his franchise,” said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “He’s been here the longest, he works hard every day, he skates and he scores goals. If he played on the East Coast, he’d be the most talked-about player.”
Now in his 16th season, Marleau is as close to an ironclad statistical lock as it gets in the NHL. He’s 34, but he’s missed only 15 games since 2005-06. In that span, he’s had six seasons of at least 30 goals and six of at least 33 assists. With 18 goals and 38 points in 41 games, he is on pace to do the same again in 2013-14 and he’s still doing it all at an average speed that blows away the people who see it most often.
“You hear about his speed, but until you see it firsthand, you don’t appreciate it,” said defenseman Dan Boyle. “He’s a special skater.”
Sharks GM Doug Wilson chalks that up to Marleau’s unsurpassed level of physical conditioning and believes he’s a very young 34. And again, his teammates are the ultimate assessors of the payoff that has followed Marleau’s hard work.
“He makes it look easy, playing with him is easy,” said center Logan Couture. “You know you can put the puck in an area and he’ll get it.”
Marleau has no pretentions toward convincing the public how deeply he cares about winning. Where some in the past have questioned that desire, Sharks management never has. They don’t need him to make grandiose statements or break into bug-eyed convulsions on the ice when things don’t go his way. All they’ve ever asked of him is to be himself, be consistent and be a solid teammate. And he’s delivered on all counts.
“Sometimes people want to turn Patty into someone he’s not and that’s unfair,” Boyle said. “His play speaks for itself.”
This feature originally appeared in The Hockey News magazine (stats were updated prior to publishing). Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.