The San Jose Sharks have the best record in hockey, and Patrick Marleau is one of the big reasons why. The teamís captain since the 2003-2004 season, Marleau has been one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL since being taken by the Sharks as the second overall pick in the 1997 draft. Now 29 years old, Marleau is San Joseís all-time leader in goals and assists and, as of April 1, ranks fifth in the NHL this season with 37 goals. Marleau shared some of his thoughts on the game, including his views on a couple of statistical categories, when the Sharks visited Boston earlier this year.
David Laurila: How would you describe Patrick Marleau, both on and off the ice?
Patrick Marleau: Off the ice, I guess that other people would describe me as a little bit quiet, but I donít see myself that way. I think that as soon as I get to know you, then Iím able to talk and interact, no problem. First I have a feeling-out process, I guess. On the ice itís more of aÖI like to see myself as a hard worker and I use my speed and my shot as much as possible.
DL: How would you describe your hometown of Aneroid, Saskatchewan?
PM: I grew up on a farm, so itís very small. Itís a farming community where everybody knows everybody and their dog. Itís kind of a tight community. Thatís it, I guess.
DL: What do you know now that you didnít the first time you stepped on the ice in the NHL?
PM: Oh boy, I guess just how lucky and fortunate you are to be here. After being here a few years you get to see people come and go, I guess. You know, being called up for a few games and being sent back down. So you really learn to relish the opportunity that you have.
DL: How much has your game changed over the years?
PM: Well, I think with the rule changes and everything like that -- things that have happened over the past few years -- itís kind of made the game a lot more interesting and a lot more fun. Itís a lot easier for the skill players to show their skill. It used to be more of a grind-it-out game where you pretty much had a guy hooking you nonstop when you were trying to go to the net. Now itís more freewheeling and you have to be able to beat people with speed and skill.
DL: To what extent do you feel that goals and assists define success for a player?
PM: I think that what it comes down to is whether your team is winning or not. Success, I thinkÖmaybe if youíre in there contributing to those wins, there are different parts of the game. So if youíre not scoring, but are still helping your team win, thatís still considered success.
DL: What do you feel is the most underrated statistic in hockey?
PM: Good question. Maybe takeaways? Thatís because itís basically a battle you won; you took the puck away from somebody. It can be looked upon as a big thing because people want the puck, so they go and get it. It helps win games.
DL: What is your opinion of plus/minus?
PM: I think itís kind of a fishy stat. Thereís a lot that goes into it. It could be a bad change or just coming out of the penalty boxÖas soon as you step out, the other team scores. Itís not necessarily that you made a bad play on the minus side of it. Of course, it can happen both ways. It can happen with a plus, too.
DL: Is shooting percentage meaningful?
PM: No, not really. I think the rule of thumb is that the more you shoot, the better. There are a lot more chances you can get off of it; you create more chances for other players. You might not necessarily score, but someone else may score off the play.
DL: Do you know where most of your goals are scored?
PM: No. Iím sure itís scouted by other teams, for goalies and stuff like that, but I donĎt really know. We have scouting reports for each goalie, like where theyíve been scored on and things like that, and I guess sometimes that affects me. Maybe in a shootout Iíll think about it. But for me, itís mostly just reaction.
DL: You have a new coach this season in Todd McLellan. What changed when he came on board?
PM: It was a clean slate for everybody and thereís the way that he coaches the game. Thereís also the respect he has, having come over from the Red Wings and winning the Cup. Basically, itís an exciting way to play and we got results from it right away. It was easy for everybody to buy into his system, and now weíre trying to perfect it.
DL: In a more general sense, how much impact do coaches have on individual players?
PM: I think they can play a huge role, especially on young players who need development -- getting their game going. Older players too, getting them what they need as far as time off, time onÖice time. Pulling the right strings.
DL: Do you like skating longer shifts or shorter shifts?
PM: I think that everybody likes shorter shifts. The shorter the better. That way you get everybody on the bench involved. For guys that have been sitting for awhile, that first shift back is a little bit tough. You have to get your legs going again to get back in the flow of things.
DL: Looking into the future, how difficult would it be for you to move into a different role if your physical skills dictated a change, perhaps to a checking line?
PM: Well, I hope that never happens. I hope I can play at the top of my game to the very end. But I guess Iíll have to just wait and see. Right now I donít think Iím too close to that happening.
DL: Last question: How would you describe the 2008-2009 San Jose Sharks?
PM: Confident. Fast. Big. Strong. Competitive. Good enough to win the Cup.