SAN JOSE- Even at age 34, Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau is a top flight player who remains one of, if not the fastest skater in the NHL. While older players like Dallas’ Ray Whitney (41) and Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne (43) make Marleau seem young in comparison, there is no denying that Marleau’s 2013-14 season has been nothing short of remarkable. Yes, you heard that right, remarkable. And as many of you already know, I’m one of Marleau’s most outspoken critics.
My grievances with Marleau center mostly around the fact that I believe he would be a top-10 player if he were considered tougher to play against. If he played with more of an edge and drove the net more frequently off the rush, he’d be more of a force night in and night out.
All that aside, given that the peak performance age for NHLers is 25 when it comes to points per game, the fact that Marleau is currently on pace for his third 80 point season of his career is simply amazing. What is even more amazing is that Marleau is putting together this stellar campaign while frequently defending against the opposing team’s top line.
For his career, Marleau’s best statistical season came (surprise surprise) at age 26, during the 2005-06 season when he finished with 86 points. Marleau’s next best campaign came in 2009-10—the year after he lost his captaincy— in which he tallied 83 points including a career high 44 goals.
However, since that 83 point output, Marleau’s regular season scoring numbers had been in decline. The following season he tallied 73 points, followed by 64 in 2011-12. During last year’s lockout shortened season Marleau started out of the gate on fire with 14 points in his first six games, but managed just 17 points over the remaining 42. Overall, his 31 points in 48 games put him on pace for a mere 53 over 82 games.
In other words, coming into the 2013-14 season, Marleau’s point totals had declined by an average of 10 points in each of the past three seasons.
However, not only is Marleau bucking that trend this season, he is arguably having his finest season yet. While having career year at 34 is extremely rare, in Marleau’s case, it’s difficult to contend otherwise.
During Marleau’s career high 86 point campaign in 2005-06, opposing teams best defenders had their hands full trying to stop the absolutely lethal Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo combination.
While Thornton remains a dominant force for the current Sharks, Marleau is certainly seeing much tougher matchups this time around. Not to mention NHL defensive systems have tightened up considerably since that 2005-06 season.
Yet in spite of all that, Marleau’s currently producing at a point per game level and his 124 shots through 33 games have him on pace to shatter his career best 279 set in 2010-11. He’s currently on track for 308 shots! Meanwhile he’s also on pace to finish the season with a career low 10 penalty minutes. (Possible Lady Byng candidate?) That statistic might be the most impressive considering he has to defend the likes of Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on a nightly basis.
Given his previously declining numbers, one might have thought Father time was catching up to the longest tenured Shark. But as evidenced this season, that thought process was dead wrong.
Just like he does to most NHL defenseman, Marleau is leaving Father Time in the dust.
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