He was invisible for most of Game 5 between the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings, failing to register a point for the fifth consecutive game. That was until he became very, very visible: Having the puck stolen from him in the third period by master thief Pavel Datsyuk(notes), and then staggering around like an inebriated zombie as Datsyuk stick-handled through a check, dished to Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) and picked up the secondary assist on Tomas Holmstrom's(notes) game-winner in the 4-3 victory.
But but but wait it gets worse: Immediately following the game, VERSUS commentator Jeremy Roenick(notes) singled out Marleau, calling his play in Game 5 a "gutless, GUTLESS performance … but we'll talk about that later."
Which he did on "Hockey Central," in two different instances. (Note: Video updated.)
But this wasn't some random ex-jock tossing bombs from a Technicolor stage. This wasn't Don Cherry using "gutless" so frequently that it fades into the cacophony of his provocation.
This was Patrick Marleau's former teammate calling him out on national television, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Which makes this critique both complicated and hard to stomach for Sharks loyalists.
Sharks play-by-play man Randy Hahn was the first to fire back at Roenick after the game, via Twitter:
As was mentioned, Roenick has gone after Marleau before as a hockey analyst. From Surly and Scribe, a Los Angeles Kings blog, Roenick from last year's playoffs:
"When's Patty Marleau gonna come out and hit somebody in a playoff game?" Roenick asked incredulously. "When is he gonna come out and start showing why he was so good in the regular season? Not just scoring goals, but playing physical and being emotional in a playoff round. Look at the way Shane Doan(notes) came out in Game 1 against Detroit. He hit everything that he could possibly get his hands on to show his team how they need to play. When is Patrick Marleau going to do that in a playoff round?"
The other part of that statement, from Ryan Garner of HockeyBuzz:
"I would not sign Patrick Marleau again if they did not get past this round and he falls short of being anything but spectacular. He's been there too long and they have not won with him there, they need to go out and try to do something different," Roenick said. "Patrick Marleau is a guy that you can dispose of and get some good people for."
Last night, and into the early morning, Roenick used his Twitter feed to defend his comments and respond to about 50 fans. His comments on the comments, obviously tapped out on a phone:
Everyone can be mad at me for my comments. That's fine!! My oppinions r mine and iv always voiced them! Classless? Iv had worse said of me!!
Marleau has his fans and that's great! I am not one of them and won't pretend to be! I love the sharks w a passion and think the fans
Deserve a better effort than Marleau has given in this series!!!
Hate me if you want people!! Iv always spoke my mind and will continue too!! No axe to grind Drew ! Just my opinion.
Is it wrong for Roenick to speak out against a former teammate? Is that "classless"? Of course not.
He's got a job to do, and it's not as if he's going to recuse himself from commenting on the Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and Phoenix Coyotes because of his ties to those franchises. (Kings fans aren't going to care what he says anyway.)
Our problem with the comments?
They didn't go far enough.
Tossing out "gutless" and pointing to your heart is hack talk radio host irritation. Roenick played with Marleau for two years. They shared a dressing room. They played on the same lines at times during those two years. There's so much more context and insight that Roenick could, and should have shared, in support of his claim, but didn't. Which is why he comes off as a cheap-shot artist with an axe to grind rather than a pundit with intimate knowledge of the subject.
What's more shocking to me about all this is I know JR has nothing but respect for Marleau's abilities. One of the most enduring memories I have of my first season with the Sharks took place inside a small room at HP Pavilion adjacent to the dressing room, a room where team staffers and players not suited up can watch the game in close quarters. I happened to be in there waiting to do my postgame on-ice interview when Marleau scored an incredible, game-deciding goal in the final minutes.
Roenick, who was injured, jumped up behind me and exclaimed, "That guy is so f-ing good!" It was a cool display of admiration by one star player for another. Perhaps it's that admiration that belies JR's subsequent caustic criticism -- he knows how good Marleau can be, and it offends his delicate hockey sensibilities to see No. 12 linger on the periphery instead of imposing his will.
That last point is, we think, at the root of Roenick's commentary.
We don't know what Roenick used to say to Marleau during their time with the Sharks, because he hasn't told us. But we do know what Roenick used to say to another player who had his postseason struggles: Joe Thornton(notes).
"I'm in his ear all the time," said Roenick, who added that he has told Thornton that players sometimes have to dig deep inside to do things they don't necessarily want to do.
"I don't think it's in Joe's nature to be mean, but when he is mean, he's unstoppable," Roenick said. "That's intensity. When you're intense, you're a hard person to play against."
Thornton, Roenick added, has to learn to bring that intensity every day. "He can't pick his spots. For him to be known as one of the greatest players in the world from now on, he's got to bring that," Roenick said. "He makes a lot of money to bring that intensity. You can't rely on just his eyes and his know-how all the time."
You can envision Roenick saying much the same thing to Marleau, especially when he drops references to "I want more from a 6 million dollar man" via Twitter. It's not belittling a former teammate; it's befuddlement that a guy that Roenick has been critical of in the past still can't elevate his game in a series like this one.
Jeremy Roenick is paid to call it as he sees it. And while we're disappointed to not know more about why he fixed his gaze on Patrick Marleau, his comments were critical but not classless.