Newly acquired Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patrick Marleau has been through a lot in the last year. At this time last season, the 40-year-old was pushing the Toronto Maple Leafs toward their best shot at a Stanley Cup in decades. He was bought out over the summer as Toronto needed more cap-space to sign their young core. And this season, he was unemployed through training camp before he signed with his hockey home base, the San Jose Sharks.
It’s been a wild ride for Marleau, who landed with the Penguins on Monday and was given one more shot at a Stanley Cup.
“There’s no shortage of new and exciting things, that’s for sure. One thing about this game, it’s always…always…always opportunities,” Marleau said. “There are always challenges. I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
The Penguins acquired the now-middle aged Marleau to fill the on-ice void left by Matt Cullen, who retired after last season. Cullen was the rare player in the locker room who was able to hold all accountable. On the ice, Cullen was a versatile, speedy forward ready to plug-and-play as needed. The Penguins snagged Marleau hoping to get that same leadership and the lineup flexibility.
Marleau returned to his hockey home for one more season. On Oct. 9, he signed for $700,000, which is just above the league minimum. However, San Jose hit the skids this season. The team is next to last in the Western Conference and 14 points out of a playoff spot.
Marleau and fellow San Jose lifer Joe Thornton both wanted one more shot at a Cup. Thornton didn’t get his wish, for reasons which are not yet clear. Marleau did, and he is getting his last chance with his favorite team growing up. Photos are circulating on social media of a 12-year-old Marleau in a Penguins T-shirt for school picture day.
“(I was) just a big Mario fan and a Penguins fan,” Patrick Marleau said. “They were winning Cups back then. and (maybe) we can win one this year.”
Marleau has 20 points this season, including an even split of goals and assists (10g, 10a). As fate blessed the Penguins and Marleau, the Penguins practiced outside of Los Angeles on Tuesday, which is a short flight from San Jose.
“We’re going to go over some stuff and some talk. And I’m just getting used to the guys right now. Today’s practice was a huge help,” said Marleau. “Getting to learn the system and that. I imagine it’s going to be much the same as (San Jose). Play hard. Play the right way.”
The Penguins will also conclude their three-game road trip in San Jose later this week, which presumably will be Marleau’s last game in that building.
Marleau is not without a history with some of the Penguins. Beyond the 2016 Stanley Cup Final in which the Penguins beat San Jose, Marleau was there for what is perhaps Sidney Crosby’s signature moment: the Golden Goal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“It was just amazing. To win on home soil and Sid get’s that goal,” Marleau recalled. “Everybody flew off that bench. And it was quite a celebration in Canada.”
Marleau has traded his teal and white for black and gold, and with that comes the chance to play beside players like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who remain perhaps the best 1-2 centers in the league.
“It’s going to be great seeing them on the same color. That’s for sure. Those guys are amazing. And it’s going to be great to be on the same side as them, you know?”
The Penguins hope Patrick Marleau adds that missing piece and again can fly off the bench in celebration. It’s probably Marleau’s last chance, and it begins Wednesday night.