Patrick Marleau

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Sharks begin 1st training camp without Marleau in 21 years

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise’s career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

“I’ve spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange,” said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. “It’s his birthday today too. It’s a little weird, but he’s going to do great up in Toronto.”

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau’s 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven’t played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

“Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group,” captain Joe Pavelski said. “Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He’ll be missed. … Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That’s what we’ll need.”

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau’s 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

“When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think if we can stay healthy I think we’ve got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them.”

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals – his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 – and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose’s top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

“They feel real strong,” he said of his legs. “I feel a lot of pop out there. They’re probably as strong as they’ve ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much.”

 

Patrick Marleau thanks San Jose with full-page newspaper ad

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Shortly after Patrick Marleau signed a three-year contract in free agency with the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this summer, the San Jose Sharks took out a full-page newspaper ad in the Mercury News thanking Marleau for all of his contributions over the past 19 seasons.

This weekend Marleau returned the favor and took out a full-page ad of his own to thank the city of San Jose and the Sharks.

The ad included a statement Marleau made on social media following his departure from the Sharks.

That statement:

“Since June of 1997, San Jose has been my home, where my dreams of becoming an NHL player came true when I was drafted.

“During the last 20 years, I have had the unprecedented fortune to continue to play for this organization, make lifetime friendships, work with the best training staff, meet my wife and start our family, and play in front of incredible, enthusiastic fans. San Jose will always be my home; where my children will grow up, and the Sharks will always hold a special place in my heart.

“I have always felt appreciated and supported by everyone here and I want to thank you all — every one of the teammates I’ve had. Doug Wilson and everyone in the Sharks organization, training staff, current and past coaching staff, (owner) Hasso (Plattner), and all of the other past and present owners of the team, fans, friends and the people in this wonderful community.

“Without every single one of you, I would not have had the career I have had so far, and I know that.

“You all have my deepest respect, admiration and gratitude.”

During his time with the Sharks Marleau was not only one of the best players in franchise history, but also one of the most productive players in the NHL. In 1,493 regular season games with the team he tallied 1,082 points (508 goals, 574 assists) while his 68 playoff goals were the most in the NHL from the time he entered the league.

The Sharks were never able to win a Stanley Cup with Marleau, but they reached the Western Conference Finals four times and made the Stanley Cup Final during the 2015-16 season.

Now he moves on to Toronto where he will be joining one of the best and most exciting young teams in the league.

Connor Brown looking to add more offense for Maple Leafs

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The 2016-17 Toronto Maple Leafs had an embarrassment of riches when it came to rookie talent, with Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Connor Brown all having breakthrough years. Together that quartet combined to score 101 of the team’s 250 goals.

Most of the headlines went to Matthews, Nylander and Marner, and for good reason. They are the foundation of the franchise and the players that are going to be All-Star level producers for the next decade.

But don’t overlook the fact that Brown also potted 20 goals during the season and has the look of an outstanding complementary piece to go with the trio of superstars.

This past week he signed a three-year contract extension with the team that looks like it will be a pretty solid bargain if he can come close to repeating that production.

But Brown doesn’t seem content with just repeating it. He wants to build on it.

Here is he talking about his expectations for this season, via TSN’s Kristen Shilton.

“I want to continue to be relied upon defensively and play structurally like I have throughout my pro career, try to be conscious of that, but I think I have more to give on the offensive side, especially out of the gate. Out of the gate I was a little slow last year, so hopefully I’ll have a good start.”

Brown did have a slow start out of the gate this past season, scoring just four goals — with only five assists — in his first 31 games before coming on strong in the second half with 16 goals and 11 assists in his final 49 games. Brown is an intriguing player because he has produced big numbers at every level he has played at prior to reaching the NHL, so it seems reasonable to assume he might have even more to give at this level.

The Maple Leafs took a huge step forward in their rebuild this past season by qualifying for the playoffs for just the second time in 12 years and gave the Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals a pretty good run. With another year of experience and development under the belts, plus the addition of Patrick Marleau in free agency, they might be ready to take an even bigger jump this season.

Looking to make the leap: Timo Meier

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This post is part of Sharks Day on PHT…

Timo Meier appeared in 34 regular-season games for the San Jose Sharks in 2016-17, and he also suited up for five postseason contests.

Even so, that felt a bit like a dress rehearsal for the ninth pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Meier was held pointless in the playoffs, and he wasn’t a whole lot more effective in the regular season, generating three goals and three assists while averaging 12:28 TOI per game.

Those limited opportunities stand out, and so does a lack of bounces. The Swiss-born forward managed 85 shots on goal in those 34 contests, connecting on just 3.5 percent of them.

It’s easy, then, to imagine a big jump forward if the Sharks give him more ice time and if the puck bounces the right way. Even if Meier is at a more middle-of-the-road shooting percentage, it could be a big difference.

And, let’s be honest, the Sharks could use an infusion of youth. With Patrick Marleau out of town, there’s an opportunity for someone out there, and it’s plausible that Meier could leap over the likes of, say, Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward.

The experiment could be especially successful if Meier is the latest beneficiary of the Joe Thornton boost.

Thornton has enriched the careers of many up-and-coming snipers, with Jonathan Cheechoo standing as one of the handiest examples. Meier seems especially adept at producing goals (take, for instance, 14 goals versus nine assists at the AHL level in 2015-16), so there could conceivably be some synergy there.

Naturally, that might be asking for too big of a leap from Meier, who will turn 21 in October.

Still, it’s worth consideration, especially if the Sharks decide that they might want to spread out their offense by at least experimenting with having one Joe (Thornton) on one line and Joe Pavelski on another.

Developing a Meier-type from a promising prospect into a productive NHL player could make a big difference in sustaining the Sharks as legitimate contenders, for all we know.

Maple Leafs sign Connor Brown: Three years, $6.3M

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Clearly, Connor Brown was rewarded by the Toronto Maple Leafs by handing his number 12 to Patrick Marleau.

OK, that’s probably not the trigger, but either way, the Maple Leafs signed Brown for three years, $6.3 million on Saturday. Brown, 23, carries a cap hit of $2.1M.

Brown generated 20 goals and 36 points in 82 regular-season games last season, averaging 16:12 TOI. He logged even more minutes during that six-game series against the Capitals, averaging 18:14 per night.

Aside from seven games in 2015-16, last season constitutes the extent of Brown’s work in the NHL.

The 20 goals were nice, but there are other factors that make the $2.1 million seem fair considering other factors.

The Athletic’s James Mirtle praised the deal, and also dropped a great, timely joke: