With 500 Career Goals, Does Marleau Have Magic Hall-of-Fame Argument?

[CSNBY] With 500 career goals, does Marleau have magic Hall-of-Fame argument?
Ray Ratto

Patrick Marleau's 500 goals are a thing, to be sure. That they have all come with one team, the San Jose Sharks, is also a thing. In fact, his entire career has been a thing – a fascinating, strange, impressive, confounding and occasionally irritating thing.
 
Now is it a Hall of Fame thing? You'd think so at a cursory glance, and yet . . .
 
Marleau has never had that incandescent moment that defines his career . . . say, the one where he holds the Stanley Cup to the sky in triumph. Plus, for a player of such undisputed skill, he could be maddeningly silent for long stretches of seasons. He has been on the fan base's gotta-get-him-outta-here short list for at least five years. Among other things, it has taken him longer to get to 500 than any player other than Ron Francis.
 
So we ask again. Is this a Hall of Fame thing?
 
Well, there are only six other currently Hall-eligible (as in retired for more than five years) players with 500 plaque-less goals – Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi, Pat Verbeek, Pierre Turgeon, Jeremy Roenick and Peter Bondra. Of those six, only Roenick and Bondra never played on a Cup winner, and there seems little traction by the 18-man (sorry, no women yet) Hall of Fame committee for any of those save Recchi.
 
Even Marleau's best year, 2010, didn't have a single standout number – 44 goals is impressive, but it isn't a nice round 50, and finishing ninth in the Hart Trophy voting doesn't linger in the heart.
 
But that's math. The burning question with Marleau is whether there is magic in the name above and beyond the math, and magic is a maddeningly individual standard.
 
Marleau has always been cursed not only by his occasional dry spells but the expectations attached to him from the day he was drafted second behind Joe Thornton in 1997. He has helped the Sharks gain and maintain legitimacy, but has he been more important than Thornton (no), or Joe Pavelski (probably not), or Brent Burns (apples and oranges, but it's an argument)?
 
And is that a legitimate disqualifier for the Hall? Beats me.
 
The problem for the magic argument is that Marleau didn't transcend his sport, but at best merely kept pace with it. He wasn't the best player on his team at any point, and he wasn't the dominant player in any particular category, but he was pretty good to excellent at a lot of them, and the one thing he seemed occasionally indifferent to, defense, sometimes stuck out like a broken femur.
 
But we're still dancing around the question of why he should or should not be a Hall of Famer when his time comes, and where we all end up eventually is at this point:
 
There is no compelling reason to put him in, and there is no compelling reason to keep him out. The old argument, "Can you write the history of hockey without mentioning his name?" doesn't help, because the answer depends on how thorough you want your history to be.
 
And while we're at it, the answer depends on how you want your Hall of Fame to be – inclusive or exclusive.
 
There are 18 members of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, rotated out one at a time after 15 years. And small rooms mean one or two passionate selectors can turn a room. So does Patrick Marleau stir passions? More to the point, who in the room stirs them on his behalf?
 
Those we can answer, after sampling the opinions of a committee member who gets to remain anonymous. One, not particularly, and two, nobody comes immediately to mind.  In short, Marleau will not ride to Toronto on a wave of inspired sentiment or fevered speechifying. It would help if Roenick and/or Bondra got in before Marleau's name comes up, because comparisons between players work in that room. It would also help if he could squeeze in a Cup before he retires.
 
But barring that, he seems like the sort of player who will make the committee scratch its collective head a lot . . . and then pass. Unless, of course, he plans to keep scoring at his present rate, in which case he could get to 600 by the end of the year, and it would be hard to keep someone out who scores 119 goals in a season.

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