New Leaf Patrick Marleau joined TSN Overdrive this evening to discuss his decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the next three years.
What have the last few weeks been like as you have had to consider leaving San Jose, and especially in the last week, once the window of negotiation opened? How stressful has it been? Generally, what has it been like as you’ve wrestled with that decision?
Marleau: It’s been pretty stressful. Any big decision like this doesn’t only affect me; it affects my family and I didn’t take it lightly. I’ve gone through a lot of notepads, put it that way, but we’re all extremely excited that I am going to be a part of the Leafs now. Everybody is pumped for me.
You’ve got your notepad in front of you. You’re weighing staying with an organization that drafted you 20 years ago last month or going to the Toronto Maple Leafs. How did you weigh the pros and cons?
Marleau: It took me a week. Do you want to go through it? [laughs] I think it came down to the excitement and the management there and the coaching staff; all the excitement around the team, the players that are there now and the players that are going to be coming up in their system. It just felt right, and it felt like it was the right time to do it for me and my family.
Has the perception of the Maple Leafs franchise changed on the outside now? Let’s be honest: There are a lot of players who would rather forgo the thought of playing in this hockey-crazed market, but as you said, with these young players, has the perception changed among hockey players who don’t play here?
Marleau: I think so. I think they see the team that is there. They see the management that is in place and the coaching staff. They see it as a place that will be a great place to play, and that’s how I’m looking at it. I think it’s going to be a great experience, and I can’t wait to get there and get the season going and play with my new teammates.
Mike Babcock has made no secret of the fact that he’s a big proponent of your signing. He said to NHL.com that he believes being a member of the Leafs would be like the fountain of youth for you. Heading into your 38-year-old season, do you see the youth of this team maybe extending your viability as a top-end player?
Marleau: I think so. Whatever my age is, I don’t feel that old. I feel like I’m still full of piss and vinegar, and I know these kids that they have here are full of it. I’m going to feed off of it and use it to my advantage.
In terms of training, there have been so many advancements since you broke into the league. How challenging is it for a player as he gets into his mid-to-late 30s, in order to keep that step against players, in some cases, 18-20 years your junior?
Marleau: With the advancements in training and the sports science, that was another huge part that went into it. I know Toronto is on the cutting edge with their sports science division and what they do for their players. They’re on top of it. They’re on top of the nutrition. They’re on the top pushing players when they need to be pushed. I think that’s going to benefit me. I’ve surrounded myself over the years to really good people to help me be in great shape and stay in great shape. I’m always trying different things to get better. It’s no different now. I’m still trying to get better as a hockey player and trying to get stronger in the offseason; doing and trying different things, and keeping the things that work for me in my routine. It’s worked well for me and I’m going to keep doing it.
You know Mike Babcock, having played for the Olympic team in 2010 and 2014. How significant was that link to Babcock in your decision to come to Toronto?
Marleau: Obviously, it played a huge role in it. I know him from the Olympics and I know he’s going to expect a lot out of me. I need to put in the work and prove him right. That’s my job and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.
Your wife, Patrick, has tweeted out a photo of you as a young lad wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Now, you’re a Saskatchewan guy. Are you a Leafs fan at heart?
Marleau: I know I have that photo up here at the house. My dad is in my picture and my brother as well. I think, growing up in Canada, you can’t help… I mean, Hockey Canada and all of that great stuff growing up. You see the Leafs on TV. It’s an Original Six team. I’m extremely excited to be going there. I think it’s going to be great.
Family, friends, and a bunch of fans around you — maybe Leafs fans. What is the ratio there, Patrick, as far as your fellow Saskatchewanites?
Marleau: I think it’s great. That’s what the texts say, anyway. I don’t know if they’re still cheering for another team. But there’s a lot of Leafs fans out there, that’s for sure.
I would think that the prospect of playing with Auston Matthews would excite you. Is that a part of the allure? Securing the spot on his left wing?
Marleau: Wherever they put me, I’ll do whatever they want me to do. If it’s to play with Auston, that would be great. That would actually be awesome. I don’t want to undersell that. Obviously, he is a special, special player and if I could do anything to help him and the team, I’d be willing to do that.
You guys are busy during the season, so I don’t know how much hockey you’re able to watch, just given your schedule. How much of Auston’s rookie season were you able to catch highlights of? Maybe just offer an impression of him as a player.
Marleau: Being on the west coast, we get to see the east coast games before our games. Right from the very beginning, you could tell he was a special player. He proves that all year long. From everything I hear, he’s going to be ready to do it again, and he’s going to get better. That’s why I want to be a part of this team. The team wants to be better. They’re striving to be better each and every day. They eat, sleep hockey. That’s what I love.
When you see a team like the 16th-seed Nashville Predators make the Stanley Cup Finals, what does it say about the parity of the league? What does it mean for the Leafs in terms of the jump they could possibly make in the next couple of years?
Marleau: It just goes to show, once you’re in, it’s anybody’s game. If you get hot at the right time… A lot of things have to go right for you, but if you have the right group of guys that care about each other and play for each other and put in the work, you can make that run. You can make that run all the way to the Stanley Cup.
If you were asked to encapsulate your near 20 years with one organization – the San Jose Sharks – and the ups and the downs and the everything in between, what would you say? What were the last 20 or so years like?
Marleau: I just love that I had that opportunity to stay in one spot for that long. They’re a first-class organization – the management, the past and present owners. They’ve all been great to me. I’m just thankful, is the biggest thing.
It’s amazing – you haven’t missed a game in the regular season since 2009. What do you think has been the key to your incredible durability?
Marleau: Probably the support staff here, and the training staff has been great. Trying to take care of myself away from the rink as well. Obviously, playing some games where you probably shouldn’t have been there, having IV bags before games, after games, in between periods. Playing through some bumps and bruises along the way. But I want to be out there. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. I’m going to try to be out there and help my team.
#12 is currently taken by Connor Brown. Are you going to make a play for that number, or are you going to step outside the box and change things up?
Marleau: I’ll have to have a talk with him and we’ll see what we can work out.
How attached are you to the #12?
Marleau: I like it. I mean, I’m up for anything. This is a whole new chapter for me. I think there are some people that I know that would really like to see me wear it. But we’ll see where it goes.