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What the Toronto Maple Leafs Owe Patrick Marleau

Patrick Marleau was just nominated for the Bill Masterton Award. What is his legacy with the Toronto Maple Leafs?

This week it was announced that Patrick Marleau was one of the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. For those who might not know, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded after each season to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.

Marleau was nominated after surpassing Gordie Howe’s NHL record for most games played in his NHL career. Howe played in a whopping total of 1,767 games; and, by the end of the 2020-21 season, Marleau was at 1,779 games. In total, Marleau has competed in the NHL since the 1997-98 season, which – doing the math – is 23 seasons. During his Hall of Fame career, he’s scored 566 goals and totalled 1,197 points.

For most of his career he played with the San Jose Sharks. In fact, looking at his list of seasons and his statistics, it seems there’s a list of season after season with the Sharks. Except. Breaking up those seasons were two with the Toronto Maple Leafs – 2017-18 and 2018-19. And those are the seasons I want to talk about in this post.

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Marleau Adopts Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner

Although Marleau only played two seasons with the Maple Leafs, his presence there will have a lasting legacy. That’s because he had such a powerful impact on two Maple Leafs players who will likely be the core of this team as it moves into the future. Those players are Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Marleau came to the team when Marner was in his third season and Matthews was in his second. They became very good friends. In fact, it was more than that: it was almost as if Marleau and his family adopted these two young men and made them part of their family. The threesome became tight both on and off the ice.

That relationship was exemplified when Matthews honored Marleau during the NHL All-Star game two seasons ago at the NHL’s All-Star Game in San Jose when he pulled off his own jersey to reveal Marleau’s jersey to an appreciative crowd.

Given the time that Matthews and Marner hung out together, the older and more experienced Marleau’s professionalism and work ethic rubbed off on his two young friends. Matthews and Marner were encouraged, mentored, and taught by Marleau.

No doubt, the three players discussed hockey in all its details. No doubt, Marleau shared stories of his hockey career. And, no doubt – given what we know about Marleau as a class act – there’s every reason to believe that Marleau taught both Matthews and Marner how to act professionally. That’s a huge impact.

From what we’ve seen about Marleau and the way that Matthews and Marner have grown as players and professionals, there’s no reason to believe he wasn’t a great teacher. He’d already been through most of the situations the youngsters would face as they have learned to engage the rigors of this league.

Marleau Left a Legacy with His Impact on the Two Maple Leafs’ Young Stars

Towards the end of his time with the Maple Leafs, Marleau’s contract became an albatross for the team. Certainly, from a financial point of view, that’s accurate. He didn’t play up to the financial level of his contract. That said, Marleau brought more to the team than could have been added up by the value of that contract.

Patrick Marleau San Jose Sharks
Patrick Marleau San Jose Sharks

Part of that gift to the team was his mentorship with Matthews and Marner both on and off the ice. There’s no doubt that Marleau’s experience and insight will live on in the Maple Leafs careers of these two young stars. Both Matthews and Marner – and the Maple Leafs organization – owe Marleau a debt of gratitude.

Should they become the superstars they have the potential to become, I part of that credit must go to their experienced mentor and adopted dad – Patrick Marleau.

Related: Could Maple Leafs Move Nylander to Center and Tavares to Wing?

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