On April 19th, 2021, Patrick Marleau set a new record for the most NHL appearances of all time. During the San Jose Sharks’ 3-2 defeat to the Vegas Golden Knights, the 41-year-old wrote his name into the history books in making his 1,768th appearance in the professional ice hockey division. While Marleau’s legacy is there for all to see, the Canadian is still looking to the future. However, the next step in his illustrious career is currently up in the air. So, where does the record-holding forward go from here as an unrestricted free agent?
A Testing Season in 2020-21
Although the 2020-21 campaign saw Marleau break Gordie Howe’s record for the most NHL games played, it wasn’t his best from a sporting standpoint. The Sharks finished seventh in the West Division and 14 points behind fourth-placed St. Louis Blues. According to the official NHL website, the 41-year-old scored nine points in 56 games, registering four goals and five assists. Although he battled ankle and groin injuries, this tally is the lowest of his professional career.
At his best, Marleau recorded 86 points during the 2005-06 season, which shows how far his levels have dropped. However, he did play 80 matches that season. In top-level sports, age is one factor that athletes can’t run from, and the 41-year-old’s record shows that there’s been a steady deterioration in his on-field return since 2013-14.
As per Hockey Reference, Marleau enjoyed a 70-point season in 2013-14. But this figure reduced to 57 the following year. After that, he registered 48, 46, 47, 37, and 22 between 2015 and 2020. While nobody can argue that the forward didn’t suffer from fitness issues in 2020-21, his level has been on a steady decline for over half a decade.
Holding Impressive and Unwanted Records
While the stats show that Marleau hasn’t been at his best over the past few years, he continues to break records. After missing five games in 2008-09, the 41-year-old became only the fourth player in NHL history to play at least 900 consecutive matches in the regular season. Not only that, but the Canadian is also the Sharks’ all-time leader in goals, and he became the youngest player to play 1,000 games for a single team back in January 2011.
Unfortunately, Marleau also holds the record for playing the most NHL matches without winning the Stanley Cup. Because of the Shark’s seventh-place finish, he also can’t end that unwanted run this year. However, ice hockey is an unpredictable sport, meaning that the 41-year-old could leave the Sharks as an unrestricted free agent and win the coveted prize elsewhere. Marleau has always said that winning the Stanley Cup is his ultimate goal, and his career-long dedication warrants success. Although he cannot lift the trophy in 2020-21, his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, are 13/2 in NHL betting odds to win the competition, as of May 17th. Maybe he’ll return to them and finally secure the cup.
Will He Get a 24th Season?
At the time of writing, Marleau is on the cusp of playing for a 24th NHL season. However, it’s currently unclear where he’ll play, if anywhere, in 2021-22. The all-time appearance holder still has something to offer, particularly from a leadership standpoint, so he may get one more chance to achieve his Stanley Cup dream.