Hockey Talk on Sirius XM caught up with new Leaf Patrick Marleau on Thursday to discuss his offseason so far and the challenge ahead with his new team in Toronto.
With the time you’ve had to digest over the past month, how does it feel to be a Maple Leaf?
Patrick Marleau: It feels great. I couldn’t be more happy about joining them. It’s going to be a great challenge and I’m really excited for it.
You’re from the green province, Patrick. There is a long history of players wearing the Blue and White who are from Saskatchewan, but you’ve been in the NHL basically longer than you’ve been alive [before the NHL] because you came in as an 18-year-old. Let’s talk about your family: Where is your wife from and how many kids do you have? You’re used to the California life. You’ve gone from Western Canada to the West of the United States to Toronto. Let’s talk about your family.
Marleau: My wife is from the Bay Area here and we have four boys. This is all new to them and me. There is some excitement and a little bit of nervousness going to new schools and going to, obviously, a different part of the world and a different country. For the most part, though, we’re really excited and we can’t wait to get up there and get settled.
Do your boys play hockey? Is the GTHL in their future?
Marleau: Yeah, the three older boys are playing. My oldest told me I had to get him on a good team there. I’m seeing what I can do. He’s been playing travel hockey here. That is his demand, so we’ve got to try and make it work for him.
Take us back to the decision, Patrick. People would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall. This must’ve been such a difficult decision to make to go to Toronto.
Marleau: I mean, being in one spot for as long as I have and being part of a great organization like the Sharks, it was extremely tough. The biggest hurdle for me was probably the teammates. Having played with them for a long time, making the decision to move on didn’t come lightly. But it’s where we’re at now and I’m extremely excited.
What is your relationship like with Mike Babcock?
Marleau: I was able to play for Babs at a couple of Olympics. Obviously, we had some success there. I love the passion that he brings to the game. I’ve had him before and it was a great experience. He has a great track record and that is part of the allure of going to Toronto and playing for him. I know I am going to be pushed and I am looking forward to the challenge.
Another allure is the guy who wears #34 in the form of Auston Matthews. How exciting is the prospect of potentially being on a line with one of the biggest rising stars in the league right now?
Marleau: That was all part of the decision as well. You look at their team and you talk to anybody about their team, and they have great young guys. They have a group of guys that I have been told want to get better each and every day. To be a part of that and to feed off that and help them get to another level is what helped me make the decision.
Growing up in Saskatchewan, did you have a favourite team or favourite player? What did some of your buds say when you joined the Buds?
Marleau: Watching Hockey Night in Canada, Toronto was always on. Growing up, I liked Wayne Gretzky, obviously, but Mario Lemieux was my guy in Pittsburgh when they were winning their championships. But the Maple Leafs were always on TV and you always wondered as a kid what it would be like to be able to play for them. They made a jersey for me and then I threw it on and it put a big smile on my face to see myself in the mirror wearing it. All of my buddies back home in Canada are excited for me. They can’t wait to see me on HNIC a lot.
There's a whole lot of Canadian pride here. 💙 pic.twitter.com/dWbS17mmIW
— Christina Marleau (@c_marleau) July 28, 2017
We saw the great picture of your family all wearing the #12. That number was taken by Connor Brown. Does any conversation need to take place with a guy of your ilk coming over? Is it just like a soup-and sandwich type of deal at Tim Horton’s upcoming for Connor Brown?
Marleau: Actually, I met him when I was out there but I was busy doing some stuff with the training staff there, so I wasn’t able to get to the number thing. I heard a story that the next day after I signed there that he kind of knew. He went around going, “I know, I know.” The good thing is he’s going to be able to get his junior number I believe [#28], or a number that he really likes. Hopefully it works out for both of us.
The Leafs’ numbers last year were really good last year after a slow start. Back in the playoffs, top five in the league in scoring. Your numbers were great as well — there were only 26 30-goal scorers in the NHL last year, and you had 27 goals and again stayed healthy, which has been remarkable in your career. Are you ready to manage expectations in Toronto? They are talking a long playoff run. How do you feel about that?
Marleau: That’s what everybody wants. I think every team expects that out of themselves. That is not going to be any different. Having played as long as I have and knowing the ups and downs of the season, you’ve got to learn from those. It’s all a challenge and it’s all an opportunity. I think that with this group of guys I’m extremely excited about making that long playoff run.
What does the rest of your summer look like? Are you still house hunting in Toronto? When are you guys coming down?
Marleau: We are looking to come there at the end of August. Right now, we are eyeballs deep in moving boxes. I’m just getting my workouts in and trying to pack up as much stuff as we can to get ready for the move.