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LAS VEGAS – Doug Wilson’s message has been crystal clear since shortly after the disastrous ending to his team’s season. The general manager and head coach Todd McLellan will be giving the younger core players a bigger stake in the club both in the dressing room and on the ice.
Veterans have a decision to make – stay in San Jose and accept a lesser role, or work with the team to find a new home.
Patrick Marleau, in Las Vegas for the annual NHL Awards show where he’s a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, has made up his mind already.
“I want to play in San Jose. I want to win there,” Marleau said.
“I think as far as the young guys, you want everybody to be in it together. To have them have more ownership of the team, that’s great. I think everybody needs to be in it as a team.”
Marleau, who signed a three-year contract extension in January, said he hasn’t been asked to waive his full no-trade clause that was included in the deal.
If Wilson is sitting around waiting for Marleau and captain Joe Thornton – who also has a new three-year contract with a full no-trade clause – to volunteer to be relocated, he better be in a comfortable chair. Marleau has spoken with Thornton and said that both expect to return for the 2014-15 season “as of right now.”
Still, Marleau admitted that some sort of change is necessary after the miserable first round collapse.
Recently, Wilson said that a group of Sharks players told him that the team was like “co-workers and not teammates.” It was the latest in a long line of indictments from team brass that the locker room culture and leadership group need an overhaul.
Marleau said: “I think he’s thinking that you can get more out of each other on the ice if you’re a tight-knit group. I think that’s what he’s trying to get at.”
Was that missing?
“Well, it’s something they’re looking at, obviously, yeah,” he said.
The Sharks’ all-time leading scorer said he didn’t sense a rift in the dressing room between the older and younger players during the season, but considering what happened in the first round loss to the Kings in which they held a 3-0 series lead, maybe the atmosphere isn’t ideal.
“None of this stuff usually comes out of the woodwork until something like this happens,” Marleau said. “Everybody thinks it’s fine and everybody thinks it’s good, and then something like this happens and you’re like, well, maybe it’s not as good as we thought it was.
“I don’t see it as a big thing. Obviously, you want to have a close-knit team. I think there are certain things that we can do as an organization to make that happen, whether it’s going out and having a get-away together, and team bonding. Things like that.”
The spotlight on Marleau and Thornton will only get brighter should they remain in teal at the start of next season. There’s already a strong possibility both will be losing their letters on their sweaters – Thornton as captain, and Marleau as an alternate.
Marleau is already a bit impatient to prove to the hockey world, the Sharks’ loyal fan base, and maybe even his general manager and head coach that he and the team he’s been a part of for so long can take that final step.
“It’s going to suck having to go through all the 82 games to get back into the playoffs, to get to that point to actually do something about it,” he said.