Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton Reunion Could Provide Boost Sharks Need

There are currently three players in the NHL who were born in the 1970s. Two of them, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, are now sporting teal sweaters.

"If they play on the same line it might be one of the oldest lines in NHL history," NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker joked on "Sharks Morning Skate" on Facebook Live on Thursday morning.

But this reunion between the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks from the 1997 NHL Draft is about more than just bringing up the average age on the Sharks. Marleau returns to San Jose in a more seasoned, veteran role -- one that Thornton truly grew into in the two seasons that No. 12 was playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. That added leadership surely is something the 0-4-0 Sharks can benefit from.

"It's early in the season, but for (Marleau) to come back now, it's excellent," fellow NBC Sports California analyst Kendall Coyne Schofield discussed. "I think leadership is one thing that is needed in the Sharks locker room right now."

After returning to the lineup last season following some early-season issues with his surgical-repaired knee, Thornton settled very nicely into a role where he was pivotal in guiding the development of young players around him. Regular linemates Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc had breakout seasons in 2019, spending most of their time skating on Thornton's wings. 

Simultaneously, Marleau took on a very similar role in Toronto, working with young forwards like Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. That's a role he's likely to continue in his return to San Jose.

"When he started with the Sharks two decades ago, his role was very different," Schofield observed. "His role has changed throughout his career and we saw that role change in Toronto. I'm excited to see what he brings to the Sharks, which will be different than when he started his career with the Sharks."

Marleau doesn't just have the opportunity to take some of San Jose's younger players under his wing. There's also the potential there to re-create offensive magic with long-time teammate Thornton.

"They've always gotten along because you've got a generational passer with a generational scorer," Baker said of Thornton and Marleau's chemistry. "(Marleau) scores winning goals, big key goals. And who's the guy who puts it on his tape a lot? A guy named Joe Thornton. So I think this is great."

With any luck, the two seasoned vets can get something going for the Sharks on Thursday night against the Blackhawks.

The Sharks have history on their side, given they won two of three against the Blackhawks last season and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games against the Chicago squad. In 100 total meetings between the franchises, San Jose is 52-35-5-8 all-time.

[RELATED: Why Roenick believes Marleau "deserves" last shot with Sharks]

That being said, the Sharks also are off to their worst start since entering the league, so relying on past records could mean absolutely nothing. All that really matters for San Jose at this juncture is that Peter DeBoer's club somehow, someway, gets into the win column. 

If a reunion between Thornton and Marleau can help lead the team to a victory, the Sharks will take it.

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