Last year during the playoffs, Jeremy Roenick spoke out after game 5 against the Red Wings on his hatred for Patrick Marleau's style of hockey. Marleau, pretty much the most consistently great player in Sharks history, was especially outstanding in a game 7 victory a few nights later. Was Marleau actually bad in game 5? No. He got stripped of the puck in his own zone by a magician on the wall (Pavel Datsyuk), then got back to force Datsyuk to pass to the point on an eventual goal. A great play by Datsyuk for sure, but not something to harp on Marleau about. Roenick called Patty's effort "gutless" on that one play, and apparently that one play represented the entire game, and past according to the also-Cupless Roenick.
To JR's credit, he did give Marleau credit for game 7, but a monkey could have pointed out that he was especially awesome. But Roenick only did it because he wanted to feel relevant... trying to act like he was in some way responsible for "lighting a fire" under the former Sharks captain.
Roenick again called out Marleau in a blog this week. The Sharks just came off an awful 9-game road trip. Somehow, Roenick again blames Marleau for the team's struggles. Low and behold, Marleau had an outstanding performance in last night's shootout loss, and Sharks "fans" are trying to give JR some credit for once again lighting a fire under Roenick. How does that work? Marleau has been playing great over the last month, potting 10 points on that 9-game road trip. Hey, if someone is getting 10 points on an abysmal 9-game road trip... it MIGHT not be him you need to point a finger at. As for giving JR credit, that is ridiculous. The fact is, Marleau is almost a .75 point-per-game player during his career, and recently had career years averaging about a point per game. Odds are, if anyone calls him out, he is GOING to get a point the next game, and if not, a two point game thereafter.
I was a big fan of Roenick's style of game. I even rock my orange Roenick Flyers jersey from time to time during some pickup hockey (which says a lot considering I grew up an Islanders fan... but hey, I respect the game and great players, and collect their sweaters). He obviously had great skills, but his style of play was a lot different than Marleau's. Being an overachiever every night was Roenick's game. That said, does that mean we can't look at hundreds of games in his career and point at bad, stupid, or unlucky plays that resulted in a goal against his team? No. The fact that Roenick doesn't understand this is what makes him a tool. Okay, maybe a lot more than that makes him a tool, but this just further solidifies it.
JR may just be trying to stir up controversy, and to his credit, now we are all talking about him (out here in the Pacific at least). I suppose that is the goal when being on television. Marleau is playing his typical game this season, and that is what he is paid to do, and what he knows how to do. He is the ultimate hockey professional. To say that he doesn't have what it takes to win a cup is absurd. Lots of players that are way more passive have contributed greatly to cup winning teams. Not all players contribute best in this "overdrive mode" that Roenick and many fans demand out of Marleau. It's not a lack of hustle or determination on his part... he is just a skilled player with sneaky speed and a sneaky shot, and he is also very smart. He does his job, and always has. No one player can bring a Stanley Cup to a team. What it comes down to is that almost every team plays solid hockey nowadays, and you can't ever predict who will win any given game or series. All the Sharks fans that go into seasons expecting a cup are looking past the grind, the breaks, and the journey that is the season and playoffs.
This could very well be the year the Sharks win it all... they could also miss the playoffs. This goes for about 12 teams. That's the NHL now, so I wish Sharks fans would just deal with it and stop crying and pointing fingers at specific players. I find it funny how so many said that Nabokov was to blame, and that the Sharks could never win a Cup with him... then they bring in Niemi who was fresh off a Stanley Cup winning performance, and the fans were and still are pessimistic with him back there. Sharks fans have nothing to complain about, they have had a playoff team every year for the past decade. They could all be Islanders fans like me... then I would understand the whining and finger pointing.
For the record, I grew up an Islanders fan on Long Island for the first 20 years of my life. For the last 7 years I have lived near San Jose, and have become quite a hardcore Sharks fan as well. But I am a realist. I don't think the Sharks have ever "choked" in the playoffs, I think they lost to teams that were either riding a hotter goalie, got luckier bounces, or simply executed better. Are those "excuses"? No, they are facts. Let's not forget the hard playoff heartbreaks the Islanders went through in the mid-late 70's before their 4 straight Stanley Cups. Let's not forget the Red Wings in the early 90's before they finally broke through and became a dominating Cup-winning machine for the following two decades. The Islanders did it with several Hall of Famers on the same team. The Red Wings did it with mediocre goalies most of the time, among Hall of Fame stars like Yzerman and Lidstrom. On those teams, there were plenty of players that had less than a tenth of the impact that Marleau brings to the table on a nightly basis.
Sharks fans, stop panicking. Your team is still in perfect striking distance with about 15 games left. Is it scary to think they might actually miss the playoffs with such a good group of players? Yes. Would that be a failure? Yes. But 29 teams fail to win the Cup each season, get a grip and root for your team, and stop looking for players to blame before the season is even over.
And to Mr. Jeremy Roenick, if the tell-tale sign for guts in an NHL player is being able to win a Stanley Cup, you sir, were gutless your whole career. I would like to think that isn't true.