Ratto: The mystery of Marleau resurfaces for Sharks

May 8, 2011, 12:01 am
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It is the day after a Sharks loss in which too many players failed to meet the standards they hold for themselves, which means only one thing.Patrick Marleau.By now, it is the Sharks most enduring clich Wheres Patty? The teams longest serving servant , its best sniper, its most bewildering talent because he is its most intermittent talent, Marleau is back in the crosshairs again after another invisible turn against the Detroit Red Wings Friday night. Thirty-one shifts, 20:41 ice time, two shots, neither of them dangerous, and a minus-one.RATTO: Sharks can't capitalize on comeback
Two nights earlier, it was 35 shifts, 24:43, five shots in an overtime win. In Game 2, it was 31, 21:37, and four shots. Game 1, 32, 26:51 and one.VIDEO: Sharks practice interviews
No points at all, and a minus-one for the series, in 129 shifts and 93:52. For someone of Marleaus extraordinary sniping skills, this is not product at all.

Then again, since we do this dance every year, we have to admit to a fair level of boredom with the topic. Yes, he should be more visible, and more mathematically prominent. No, he shouldnt be the first person you think of when Todd McLellan complains of having not enough players.But thats what it is, and thats what it always will be. Marleau is Switzerland, his impact on a game seemingly unaffected by the events around him. He is not a barometer for the teams results, because they are 3-1 in this series without him, and he was outstanding last year in the 4-0 sweep by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference final.And perhaps it is that we misunderstand his gift, that it isnt turned on and off the way some players are. You always see Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. You always see Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Marleau is more ethereal, the oft-whispered rumor that doesnt always come to pass.And it frustrates his employer, and it bewilders his fan base, and it renders him too often the afterthought, which is far too low a bar for a player of his abilities. He ought to be noticed on every shift, he ought to change games for good or bad, he ought to be, for lack of a better phrase, PATRICK FREAKIN MARLEAU.RECAP: Red Wings win Game 4 late, stay alive vs. Sharks
And he isnt. In fact, it is hard to determine exactly what he actually is, because he vanishes from view for such long stretches.He is not lazy; you could see that. He is not wasted energy, because you could see that, too. He is not a diva, or a wallflower either. He is almost like an earthquake one second, your dishes are in the cupboard, the next, your tree is the street, and you never saw or heard it coming, or knew why it happened.Maybe he is just the sort of player you should pretend doesnt play for you. Maybe you should think of him as the big prize in a raffle that you never expect you can win.Marleau is not the reason San Jose lost Friday night. He could have changed the game, but he, well, didnt. Nor is he the reason the Sharks won Games 1, 2 and 3. He defies all known templates because there is no pattern to what he does or how it affects the world around him.It isnt that he doesnt score enough goals, either. His aggregate numbers are always good to very good. In short, he gets his, even in the postseason. So maybe the expectations are wrong. Maybe he isnt the guy you have to stop. Maybe the other team isnt sure how to deal with him either.Maybe the problem here ultimately is that we dont get him, and he doesnt get us. We see a goal machine that doesnt always start when the key is turned, and he sees a guy who does plenty and is the convenient scapegoat. We cant (or inadequately) explain our expectations to him, and he cant (or wont) explain his to us. So he remains what he has always been both scapegoat and victim, acquired target and missing person. San Jose stands on the edge of its second conference in succession and third in seven years, and still we wonder where Patrick Marleau was for all of it, while knowing he was there all the time.Camouflaged from view, while rustling the bushes.