Marleau situation marks critical time in Sharks’ history

Damien Cox and Elliotte Friedman discuss all of the top stories from around the NHL, including if Patrick Marleau is on the move, an update on Connor McDavid’s injury and if goalie pads could be getting smaller.

It’s Complicated — 2009 film starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

The sequel: not a love triangle, but still a fitting title. Starring Patrick Marleau, Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks. There are a lot of layers to this one, and the outcome is no sure thing.

This is a critical time in the franchise’s history. The Sharks are trying to transition their cornerstones from Marleau/Joe Thornton to Joe Pavelski/Logan Couture. That is difficult enough without the backdrop of the 2014 postseason disappointment and a missed playoff berth in 2015. Marleau and Thornton built something to be proud of in the Bay Area. No, they never won. But they were a respected opponent, always in the conversation.

The challenge is exacerbated by business concerns. At its best, the SAP Centre is a loud, rocking arena, a legitimate home-ice advantage, a tremendous place to watch a big game. But the fans have shown that when the team isn’t winning, interest dwindles. Attendance goes down, season-tickets don’t get renewed. There is a significant chunk of the fan base that loves Marleau, who just built a beautiful new home there.

Owner Hasso Plattner and Wilson, the GM, are very sensitive to that. When Wilson and Thornton had a public spat last year, Plattner agreed to be quoted — something he prefers not to do.

“What goes on with the Sharks stays with the Sharks,” he said, a clear message that their dirty laundry isn’t for gossipy reporters.

To their credit, both Marleau and Wilson tried to follow that directive. Relationships inside this organization (not just involving these two) haven’t been easy the last 18 months, but they kept this one private. Those who know much more than I do say whatever is going on here has been brewing for about six weeks.

Last March, Wilson told CSN Bay Area that he would never ask anyone with a no-trade or no-move clause to waive it.

“Players would have to come to me,” he said.

Did Marleau do it? Why? No letter? (He did get an “A” when Couture went down.) Is it time for a change? What if things have calmed down in two months?

Right now, it’s all a guessing game.

Adding to the complexity of this situation are the milestones Marleau is about to reach. He’s three points from 1,000 and you have to believe San Jose would like him to celebrate there. And, as a Shark once pointed out to me, he’s got a chance (if he wants to play that long) to pass Gordie Howe’s record of 1767 games played. Marleau — at 1344 — would need six more seasons. He hasn’t missed a game since 2008-09.

Yes, he’s 36 and is under contract until July 2017 at a cap hit of almost $6.7M. Not everyone will want to step up and eat that meal.

But one executive had an interesting opinion: “Everyone who saw him in Sochi came away very impressed. The way he played, the way he handled himself. That was noticed.”

CSN’s Kevin Kurz reported Tuesday Marleau would waive for Anaheim, Los Angeles or the Rangers. There’s a better chance of me being Miss America than San Jose trading Marleau to the Kings. It’s my belief the Sharks and Rangers have talked, but the problem is not this year. It’s next season, when New York has to sign Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and JT Miller, even as Dan Boyle comes off the cap.

Anaheim? That’s an interesting one. Ducks GM Bob Murray is Wilson’s old defence partner, arguably the latter’s best friend in the business.

And there’s another variable: what if the Sharks simply say, “No, we’re not doing it?”

It’s like an Elmore Leonard novel. The final chapter is not easy to predict.

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