Every year a mysterious cabal of hockey minds gets together and decides on which players receive the honour of being inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. In this piece, we will examine the case of Patrick Marleau and whether or not he will get in or be denied.
Before diving into the meat of the argument, a few ground rules. The arguments for and against will be based in more traditional stats. Things like Fenwick Close won’t be applied, as the group of inductors probably doesn’t even know how to spell it. The same goes for the other advanced stats like Corsi. The old white men on the board will hear not of Corsi because it doesn’t measure heart. There will also be small assumptions made by me on the “intangibles” that invariably help or hinder a case like this. Shout out to hockey-reference.com for providing me with the stats.
I conducted a completely scientific poll of four of my friends, all hardcore hockey fans. I posed the question “Is Patrick Marleau a HoFer? I want your gut reaction.” The answers varied from two “No”, one “I want to say maybe but probably no” to one “Yeah he’s got numbers.” This gut reaction of no is probably held among a lot of fans, as Marleau isn’t flashy, plays on the west coast and isn’t a household name. Let’s crack-open the numbers to see if Marleau has quietly put up a case for the Hall.
Let’s start with the pedigree and background. Drafted 2nd overall in 1997, Marleau had a great junior career, culminating with 125 points in 71 games in his final season for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Patrick then played 74 games in his rookie year as an 18 year old. Currently in his 19th season, Marleau is not under contract with San Jose for season 20 but presumably will be back in the NHL somewhere.
The end is nigh for Patty as his production has declined fairly steadily in recent years. Season 21 will be pushing it and he will be hard pressed to make it to season 22 and 23. I will guess that season 21 will be the last season Patty skates in the NHL. Longevity is generally a plus, however, it becomes a negative when the longevity inflates the stats of the player. I’ll say a 20-21-season career will be seen as a plus in the case.
Pulling up the raw stats for Marleau actually brings about a pleasant surprise. Currently at 485 goals, he only needs 15 more to get to the mythical 500-goal club. In 2015-16 he had 25, 19 goals the year before and 33 two seasons ago. Looking at that three-year trend, albeit a downward trend, we can safely assume Marleau is going to get 15 more goals by April. Of the 44 players in the 500 club, only 12 guys haven’t been inducted. There are four active players and Selanne, who is first time eligible in 2017, bringing the number down to seven non-Hall 500 goal scorers. Some should be in already- Recchi and Andreychuk are curiously not in- which leaves a five-man crew of Keith Tkachuk, Pat Verbeek, Pierre Turgeon, Jeremy Roenick and Peter Bondra. Being a 500-goal scorer definitely increases your odds of being inducted.
Point total clocks in at 1041 as of the final horn against Carolina. Going backwards three seasons he has totals of 48, 57, and 70. Another downward trend but a trend that can help us hazard a guess that he should put up about 40 points this season. That will put Patty close to 1100 points and if he extends his career another season or two, Marleau will safely cross the 1100 point threshold. The low 1100’s include players such as Daryl Sittler, Joe Nieuwendyk, Bernie Federko and Mike Bossy. That’s good company and it seems point totals in this range are mostly Hall of Famers, another boost to Patty’s Hall case.
Other miscellaneous stats include a career +/- rating of -14, 10th all time in game winning goals and a gentlemanly 435 career PIM’s. Even though some of these stats are fairly useless, looking at you plus minus, they inevitably get brought up. As to how much of an impact they make, no one knows, however plus minus seems to still hold water among the traditionalists. We will call the plus minus a big negative and the other random stats a wash that ultimately won’t factor.
Hardware time and let’s get the obvious elephant out of the room. Patrick Marleau has no Stanley Cups. Great. Cup wins should only enhance the case not detract, as this is a team game and it is incredibly hard to get to the Finals let alone win the whole shebang. Marleau does have one Finals, and four Western Conference Finals to his name though. He is also a two-time gold medal winner, Go Canada, a World Championship gold and silver medalist, as well as a gold medalist at the World Cup. Marleau is a three-time All-Star and a two-time finalist for the Lady Byng. The lack of NHL hardware is not good for a case on the fence like this, but the international success is a big positive.
Now to the final and most fun category, which may or may not be total BS. Intangibles! Yay! Marleau cut his teeth on the late 90’s and early 00’s Sharks. He was then the captain for six and a half years, which, coincidentally was the same time the Sharks started getting the choker label. Being stripped of the captaincy will be a big mark against, even though he turned the C over to Rob Blake (HOF class 2014) and then it went to Joe freaking Thornton. There should be no shame in losing the C to those two legends but invariably this will be part of the narrative.
The Sharks being contenders year after year and never getting it done will be used against Patty too. Soft, choker, regular season performer, and not a leader are all phrases and words every Sharks fan has heard levied against Marleau. Is any of this true? Probably not. His playoff numbers are very similar to his regular season numbers- .73 ppg regular season to .68 ppg playoffs. Marleau was steady in the regular season and was steady in the playoffs even though the Sharks as a whole came up with new and inventive ways to break our hearts, ahem 3-0 lead. No matter which way you slice the “intagibles”, the narrative works against Marleau once you get outside of the Bay Area.
So where does this leave us? If your head still hurts and you’re unsure after all of that, don’t worry I am with you. If Marleau wins the Cup in the twilight of his career, then you can book his ticket to Toronto on the spot. But if he doesn’t? The stats say yes. He has numbers, international success and was in the playoffs virtually every year.
But, and it is a big but, voters have left more qualified inductees, Lindros and Pat Burns come to mind, out of the Hall for unknown reasons. The intangibles and the overall narrative of Patty never rising up to the occasion to win the big one will be a burden on his chances. No matter how ludicrous the argument of heart vs. stats seems, it will be a factor and a factor that comes down unfairly on Marleau.
My final verdict is that Patrick Marleau will be shut out for a few years until a weaker class comes in and Marleau finally gets the call to the Hall. Let’s all hope he gets in before Jeremy Roenick.