Following the San Jose Sharks game five loss against the Detroit Red Wings, current Versus commenter and former San Jose Shark Jeremy Roenick expressed his immense dissatisfaction with the play of Sharks forward Patrick Marleau.
In reality, describing his thoughts as "immensely dissatisfied" don't do them justice. Roenick, furrowing his brows and banging his hands on the table for emphasis, looked more like a politician delivering an impassioned speech about a dire national security situation than a hockey analyst.
"An unbelievably poor effort from Patrick Marleau. A gutless, gutless, performance by Patrick Marleau," Roenick said. "Count them-- zero points in this series. And he had a game like that."
Later in the segment Roenick was asked if Marleau was playing with an injury. Never one to tone down the theatrics, Roenick said "Yeah he's hurt...right here" as he pointed directly to his heart. He went on to state, "All in all 19 players of San Jose Sharks came and grinded it out and played very good game," implying that Marleau was the sole player on the team that should be responsible for last night's loss.
It wasn't the first time Roenick has singled out Marleau in the media. After last season's game one loss against the Colorado Avalanche Roenick hopped on a Toronto radio station and sent these barbs Marleau's way:
"When’s Patty Marleau gonna come out and hit somebody in a playoff game? When is he gonna come out and start showing why he was so good in the regular season? Not just scoring goals, but playing physical and being emotional in a playoff round. Look at the way Shane Doan came out in Game 1 against Detroit. He hit everything that he could possibly get his hands on to show his team how they need to play. When is Patrick Marleau going to do that in a playoff round?"
"I would not sign Patrick Marleau again if they did not get past this round and he falls short of being anything but spectacular. He's been there too long and they have not won with him there, they need to go out and try to do something different. Patrick Marleau is a guy that you can dispose of and get some good people for."
An honest appraisal from an analyst who wants to see a former teammate succeed? A jealous diatribe over some unfinished business from the past? Or is it perhaps a little of both?
In order to understand the background of this story one must understand the period of time that Roenick spent with the organization he once said had "given him his life back".
And so we begin today with a look at Roenick's time with the San Jose Sharks.
[Editor's Note]: This turned from a 500 word news story to a 2,500 word reflection on Roenick's career as a San Jose Shark. In other words, it's long.
Following a rocky stint with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2006-2007, Jeremy Roenick came to San Jose after receiving a call from General Manager Doug Wilson. Wilson, who was looking for a veteran presence in the locker room to put the Sharks over the hump, still saw Roenick as a viable contributor to a Stanley Cup contender.
The contract was questioned from the outset. Roenick was always a loose cannon willing to speak his mind, and with poor locker room behavior following him like a shadow during stints with Los Angeles and Phoenix in years prior, San Jose was taking a risk in signing him to play for what was then one of the younger rosters in the League.
Coupled with his ineffectiveness on the ice in those aforementioned stints before playing for the Sharks, Roenick raised a red flag amongst those following the franchise. How would he fit in with the locker room? Would his outspoken and abrasive opinions harm the organization? Or would he redeem himself for his past transgressions and rise like a phoenix from what he once called "a nightmare season from hell"?
As it turns out, Roenick was a blessing for the Sharks.
During the 2007-2008 season Roenick led the League in game winning goals, tallying 33 points in 69 games. He was a veteran contributor on a team that needed that kind of leadership, taking players such as Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi under his wing and inviting them over for dinner throughout. He scored the 500th goal of his NHL career on November 10th, 2007, becoming only the third American born player to do so. By all accounts he was a model bottom six forward, and most importantly, a model citizen within the Sharks locker room.
His greatest achievement in teal was no doubt his performance against the Calgary Flames during the 2008 postseason. That single performance elevated him to legend status amongst the Sharks fanbase, cementing his place as one of the organization's most beloved figures in recent memory.
Roenick scored two goals and two assists in that game seven, the first in HP Pavilion history, and led the Sharks past their arch-rival the Calgary Flames. He was hailed as a saivor. A player who had resurrected his career. A success story that proved a man, who was ostracized for his outspoken behavior by many, could become revered and cherished once again.
Roenick would go on to spend two years with the club. Two more years playing the game that he loved, an opportunity he didn't think he would have ever again after leaving Phoenix. Speaking at his retirement ceremony on August 7th, Roenick thanked the organization that had given him another chance.
And most importantly, an organization that had, in Roenick's own words, given him his life back.
"Sometimes friends come and save you," Roenick told ESPN.com. "Just when I thought that it was all over, Doug Wilson asked me to fly to San Jose and talk about playing for the Sharks. He asked me if I could still play the game and I told him I know I could still play."
"In Phoenix, I wasn't able to say goodbye to the game," Roenick continued. "Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks gave me my life back. I can sit here and make my own decision to hang them up and move on."
On that summer day Roenick praised the organization that had given him another chance, lauded the friendship he shared with a former teammate. Today he has likely tarnished a friendship he shared with a different former teammate, one whom he played with only two mere years ago.
So what changed in these last two years? What precipitated Roenick's angry accusations today, comments that clearly crossed a line within the hockey community in San Jose?
Roenick has always been one to voice his opinion. His brash personality hasn't always fallen in line with the humble nature of many NHL players, and in a League where any news is not always good news, Roenick's temperament has often clashed with those who are committed to preserving that reputation. He's a loose cannon in every sense of the word, albeit an entertaining one at that.
Roenick's burgeoning career as an national analyst also makes it imperative that he continue to develop a vibrant and opinionated voice. The NBC family didn't hire him to get in front of the camera and toss underhanded softballs-- they hired him to come in and throw brush back fastballs high and tight. His opinion is what drives individuals to NBC's and Versus' hockey coverage. The fact that Mike Milbury continues to be employed in the television industry despite xenophobic and off-color remarks that swerve wildly off the road of reason is a testament to the entertainment business where Roenick is currently employed.
But most importantly, at least within the context of this story, Roenick played two years with Patrick Marleau as his team Captain.
He was part of a locker room that struggled to meet expectations in the postseason. A locker room that couldn't quite get over the hump. A locker room that received constant questions about their work ethic, their drive, and their commitment from pundits across North America. A locker room that fell short of achieving a goal they woke up every day dying to obtain.
The Stanley Cup.
San Jose's first round loss to the Anaheim Ducks in 2009 was the year where Roenick retired. It was a series that created so much turmoil within the organization that the annual State of The Sharks meeting took on biblical proportions. Figures such as Doug Wilson, Mike Ricci, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton all took the stand to testify, pleading their case in front of a rabid jury of angry and bloodthirsty fans.
From someone who lived in the belly of fan resentment that summer as comments flooded Fear The Fin like a sewage system pouring frothing feces into the streets of suburbia, I can assure you it was not pretty. Nor was it an easy task to win back the trust of this mercurial and jaded fanbase.
The 2009 State of The Sharks was the low point for the organization on many levels-- a Presidents' Trophy whisked away in the blink of an eye, a loss to a geographic and emotional rival that had already sipped from the chalice of Lord Stanley, a season ending in the most bitter of defeats. Many predicted the organization would blow up the roster that offseason after yet another playoff disappointment-- it was hard to imagine how they could recover.
And Jeremy Roenick? His last experience as a professional hockey player was shaking hands after a brutal first round loss. His last experience with the organization the definition of what disappointment and underachievement had come to mean in San Jose. The elusive Stanley Cup ring he craved, the championship he came to San Jose to get?
Lost in the sands of time.
That passion for a Stanley Cup championship is not something JR ever took lightly. When the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in forty nine years last season, Roenick cried on national television as he expressed the happiness he felt for the city where he began his career. Beneath that happiness was an infinite melancholy however.
The image of Jonathan Toews lifting the Cup above his head reminded Roenick of an accomplishment he would never have the chance to achieve.
"It's the Chicago Blackhawks man," Roenick said as he choked back tears. "I didn't get to do that. It's pretty unbelievable."
It was not the first time Roenick had teared when thinking of the Stanley Cup.
Speaking at Fan Appreciation Night in 2009 at HP Pavilion, with the crowd chanting "One More Year" as he skated on the ice, Roenick delivered a speech he knew would be his last. Thanking the fans and Doug Wilson for giving him a chance to end his career gracefully, Roenick finished his heartfelt and emotional address with a call to arms.
"Now listen. We just finished the first step of our goals. We just finished the first step. The second step is going to take everyone," Roenick said. "And I want this building to be the loudest, the most energetic building in the National Hockey League, so we can bring the Stanley Cup right here to San Jose."
It was emotional. It was uplifting. It was everything that was so captivating about Roenick. The passion he brought with to the rink every night was undeniable. It seemed like the perfect storybook ending for a historical career.
It was not meant to be.
Putting these pieces together, it seems within the realm of reason to assume Roenick feels immense pain when reflecting upon his days as a San Jose Shark. It was his last hurrah as a hockey player, a final opportunity to achieve what he dreamed his entire life of achieving. On a team that had so much talent and so much promise, the stars seemed aligned for Roenick to finally get what he feels he deserved.
It takes about one second to browse Roenick's explosion on Twitter from last night to get an understanding of how he feels about Patrick Marleau as a player-- talented, but not angry enough. The potential to be the best player in the NHL if he just "hit somebody in a playoff game." Roenick even alludes to Marleau's "lack of heart" in this tweet (among many others), implying that the Sharks locker room questioned Marleau's drive to succeed during his years as Captain.
It seems that Jeremy Roenick, either consciously or subconsciously, holds Patrick Marleau responsible for the fact that the Sharks failed to win a Stanley Cup when he was in San Jose. Patrick Marleau was Captain for those two years. Roenick is clearly troubled at the fact he never lifted the Cup. And when one recognizes that Marleau is the only NHL player Roenick has flamed to this degree since leaving the game, doing so during two different postseasons, it all begins to add up.
Jeremy Roenick holds Patrick Marleau at least partially responsible for the fact that Jeremy Roenick never won a Stanley Cup.
Bridges were burned tonight. Sharks fans will never view Jeremy Roenick the same way again. A revered figure suddenly reviled amongst many portions of the fanbase, and most certainly reviled within the walls of the organization.
There is no doubt Patrick Marleau has performed well below expectations this series. His performance on the game winning goal was rightfully criticized in our game recap, his fly-by during the backcheck of Detroit's third goal a disheartening lack of execution from one of San Jose's top players. If San Jose is to avoid a meltdown of epic proportions this series, Marleau has to be better. There is no doubting that.
No matter how out of line and foolish Roenick's comments were last night, they do hold a kernel of truth-- Patrick Marleau has played very poorly this series, and frankly, has played very poorly this entire postseason.
But as Drew Remenda stated on CSN's postgame show, "criticize the play not the player." Roenick made his comments personal on many different levels, singling out one player in what is a team game. Roenick placed all of the vitriol and anger from a Sharks loss into the lap of one player, holding Marleau solely accountable for what should be considered a failure of the entire team to execute properly.
Jeremy Roenick does care about furthering his broadcast career. His take on Marleau was way over the line. And bridges were most definitely burned last night-- some, but not all.
Jeremy Roenick always was, and always will be, a controversial figure in the National Hockey League. But he will always be a beloved figure in San Jose Sharks history as well. His performance in game seven will stand the test of time as the pain from these comments fade with age, scar tissue eventually protecting what was once raw flesh. Time heals all wounds-- how quickly Roenick was accepted in San Jose is a testament to that-- and time will heal these as well.
For some, but not all.
If one thing is clear from the anger and frustration Roenick displayed in his comments last night it is this-- Jeremy Roenick doesn't just care about his broadcasting career. He cares a great deal about his legacy and reputation as one of the greatest American born hockey players to ever play the game.
A legacy that unfortunately lives on without a Stanley Cup.
And a legacy that now includes one more city where he set fire to at least a few more bridges after he had left town.