The People’s Choice?

By Chris

Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier has said that his team would like a true No. 1 center and a big name may be on the market soon enough.

Patrick Marleau has five points in the Western Conference Finals so far and tomorrow could very well be his last day in a San Jose Sharks uniform.

With unrestricted free agency on the horizon, Marleau could be in for a big payday in a relatively weak class of centers. He’s proven to be a point-per-game player since the lockout (with the exception of a miserable 2007-08 campaign). With 44 goals this past season, you can say he’s set himself up nicely in his walk year.

With the Sabres looking to upgrade at the pivot position, it would make sense that they will take a long and hard look at Marleau.

Marleau has good career numbers in the playoffs. In 54 playoff games since the lockout, he has 43 points (.796 points per game). That’s not the problem. The problem is that his teams haven’t won jack squat in the playoffs. He was the captain of teams that choked and underachieved in the postseason. Win all the Presidents Trophies you want — regular season success doesn’t mean anything come mid-April.

Marleau has failed time and again to lead the Sharks to a Stanley Cup championship. What makes Sabres fans think that all of that will change if he signs with Buffalo?

The Sabres need someone who can show them how to do things right. No one on the roster right now has their name on the Stanley Cup and, to me, that’s significant. Joe DiPenta jokes aside, having a player in the locker room that knows how to win is a factor that can’t be overlooked.

I’m a big Mike Grier fan because he helps keep his teammates level-headed and accountable. Re-signing him is a big deal but there’s one problem with Mike Grier: He hasn’t won a Cup either.

I’m not sure who the Sabres can bring in, but I’m pretty sure the answer is not Patrick Marleau. The combination of Tim Connolly and Derek Roy has proven to not be the answer either, but, truth be told, I’d rather have Connolly for one more season at $4.5 million than Marleau for six seasons with a potentially larger cap hit.

To add Marleau, at least one of those players would have to move out as the Sabres currently have 10 forwards under contract (Connolly, Roy, Grier, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht, Paul Gaustad, Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe) along with Tim Kennedy and Patrick Kaleta who will each undoubtedly sign new contracts as restricted free agents.

Marleau, however, just seems like the type of player that will never win the Cup as a featured player. Rookie coach Todd McLellan stripped Marleau of his captaincy prior to the start of this season and he seems to be thriving without that added pressure.

This postseason, he’s surrounded by a strong cast with Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton (a combined -15) and Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle (who has rebounded since the pseudo-own goal). In Buffalo, there aren’t many All-Star caliber players outside of Ryan Miller (Vanek and Tyler Myers may each be on the cusp). Marleau would have to step up as a leader on this team and deal with the pressure of not only a new contract but also shoulder the burden of bringing Buffalo its first major sports championship.

We know the Sabres are capable of getting into the postseason. It’s tweaking the roster to make a deep run that will be a priority for Regier. Is breaking the bank for a player like Marleau, who has never reached the Stanley Cup Finals, the right decision? I don’t think so, but worse things could happen.

2 Comments

  1. Ogre39666

    Agreed.

  2. Steve

    I don’t know how you can blame Marleau for San Jose’s postseason failures. He scored 5 goals in that Chicago series. He was the only one doing anything. I think Big Joe is much more to blame. I’d love to have Marleau on this team, he was fantastic in the postseason. If San Jose will take Stafford and Connolly off our hands for the rights to sign him early, all the better.