Perhaps Roenick’s Not So Far Off

Since the whole-err hockey world can’t seem to quit yapping back and forth over the comments made by former NHL star Jeremy Roenick about San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, why not do my best to put the talk to rest?

In case you missed it, after the Sharks failed to close out the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5, Roenick called Marleau’s performance “gutless” before going on to question his heart. For those who haven’t yet heard the comments, they can be seen here:

Now perhaps (as Roenick later admitted to the San Jose Mercury News) gutless was a harsh adjective to use, but the nine-time NHL All-Star stands by it. And why shouldn’t he? From what I’ve gathered over the various columns and online comments, many people are most upset with the choice of vocabulary.

But that got me thinking, what is the definition of “gutless”?

Everyone taking the side that Roenick’s comments were out of line seem to feel that using that particular word was taking the criticism “too” far.

According to, the definition of gutless reads as follows: “lacking courage, fortitude or determination.”

It is hard to argue that Marleau’s performance in Game 5 doesn’t fit this definition perfectly.

In a game that saw the Detroit Red Wings come from down two goals in the third period to win in regulation, Marleau made two egregious errors that led to tying and go-ahead goals.

On what ended up as the tying goal by Detroit’s Dan Cleary, Marleau’s defensive effort was one of the poorest efforts seen by a Shark this season. As Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall skated through the top of the Sharks’ zone, Marleau had him lined up for what could have been a bone crunching hit. However, instead of playing the body — or at least protecting the middle of the defensive zone by keeping inside position — Marleau stabbed at the puck and allowed Kronwall the time and space to walk right into a prime shooting position.

Marleau ended up guarding air while the Red Wings proceeded to tie the score on the ensuing rebounds off of Kronwall’s initial chance. The former Sharks captain and current alternate captain has often been criticized over the years for defensive lapses and an unwillingness to play the body.

This isn’t anything new.

And Marleau’s inability to clear the puck out of the defensive zone on the game winning goal again has also been seen before.  Marleau took plenty of heat for a similar poor defensive play against these same Red Wings back in the 2007 playoffs. This time around, instead of a poor play along the neutral zone boards, Marleau failed to clear the puck out of his own zone even though he had the puck on his stick with room to chip it out.

On these particular plays, the determination or willingness to make the right play didn’t appear to be there.

Now the word “gutless” sounds harsh when you first hear it but would the reaction to Roenicks’ comments have been the same had he said, “A complete lack of determination to get the puck out on this play… total lack of determination, inexcusable by Marleau”?

Probably not.

So why all the fuss?

Roenick didn’t personally attack Marleau. His implication that Marleau has a weak heart is in reference to the hockey usage, not an attack on Marleau’s human character. Last I heard, Roenick is paid to give his opinion and he gave it. As far as we know, there hasn’t been any negative backlash from Roenick’s employer’s for his comments.

If the Versus station has no problems with what Roenick said, why should anyone else? He spoke his mind on the poor play of a particular player, he didn’t drop an f-bomb or refer to Marleau as a bad person.

Like him or not, Roenick simply did what he get’s paid to do: attract an audience by talking hockey.


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