Dealing with pointed criticism was something new for San Jose's soon-to-be 28-year-old captain. Hashing out his indiscretions with disappointed coach Ron Wilson, maintaining his usual dedicated off-season workout regiment and soul-searching while enjoying life as the dad of a newborn son all served as positive therapy for Marleau.
Now, with what happened in the six-game series against Detroit in better perspective, Marleau is ready to turn the most publicly scrutinized negative of his career into a positive.
"It comes with experience and everyone has to go through it at different times," Marleau said. "Joe (Thornton) went through it in Boston a lot more harsh than what I got, but you can see how it hasn't affected him. You just have to put it in the past."
No one suggested in print that Marleau strip himself of his captaincy as was thrust upon an undeserving Thornton on the eve of an eventual Game 7 loss for Boston against Montreal in 2004. But Marleau did have to read that his coach was disappointed in his play, suggesting a player can't take two weeks off in the second round of the playoffs, in addition to pointing to several key defensive lapses on Marleau's part.
"We had a talk and everything is fine," Marleau said of his off-season communication with Wilson. "Hopefully things will be better because of what happened."
That's what others are counting on, too.
"I think he will react and respond very well," Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said. "This is a game you want passion and you want emotions. The frustrations of not meeting all the goals we set, emotions bubble up a little bit and I'm not sure that's bad.
"We all have a common goal in this organization and when you don't accomplish that you have to look in the mirror. Adversity is a good thing if you react the right way."
The 2006-07 season ended sooner than expected, especially because San Jose had a 2-1 lead in games against a Red Wings team that didn't have momentum in the second-round series until tying Game 4 late in regulation and winning in overtime.
With losses in the next two games, the Sharks were shockingly out of the postseason for a third-straight spring. Goals were not met, expectations fell short and it was an emotional time.
"It still leaves a bitter taste in everyone's mouth, but I think that's probably what was wrong with us during the season, we weren't able to tear the calendar date off and throw that day out," said Marleau, the No. 2 pick behind Thornton in 1997. "I think we might have dwelled on them too much and we ended up losing. We need to learn from it and get it out of our heads."
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Marleau had a fantastic first round for the second-straight spring against Nashville, scoring three goals and six points. The Predators were left shaking their heads when the native of Swift Current, Saskatchewan scored the series-clinching goal in Game 5 for the second-straight series.
But what came seemingly easy against Nashville didn't happen at all against Detroit. Marleau didn't manage any goals or points, and found himself on the ice for a couple pivotal goals-against -- a shorthanded goal permitted that turned around Game 2, and the most pivotal late-regulation tying goal by Detroit when the Sharks were otherwise poised to go up 3-1 in the series.
"I know from being around that if we go a week not playing up to what others expect and what we expect from ourselves, it gets magnified," Sharks veteran forward Curtis Brown said. "The big thing is not so much scrutiny or coming down on Patty, it's about inside the locker room and a team that didn't accomplish what it set out to do.
"Patty's a big boy, he's our captain. It doesn't matter who you are. If you're Joe Thornton and you go two games without scoring, which is a slump for him. Or if you go a handful of games like Patty without scoring, the reality of it is that those slumps end and they come back in some ways stronger than ever because they've been through it," he added.
Early in his career Marleau experienced scoring droughts and periods of inconsistent play, which is consistent with any great talent that is still learning, still adapting to new challenges. But Marleau is no longer one who falls in that trap. Running captain's skates during the summer, Marleau was focused on the start of this season just weeks after the last one ended.
"I think he will learn from that and he will be better," Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov said. "That's hockey and that's what we get paid for. Either you're on top of the world or you point fingers. It's about how you handle yourself the next season. I don't think there's doubt in anyone's mind he will come out as strong as ever and have a great season."
"We have the utmost respect and confidence in Patty," Brown added. "I'm just excited, as a teammate and a friend, how high he can raise the bar again this year."
Marleau was signed to a two-year contract extension less than two weeks before training camp, ensuring his stay in San Jose will last at least through 2010. Despite just reaching his prime, Marleau already owns franchise records for career goals (219), assists (272), points (491), and games played (717). Had it not been for the lockout of 2005, Marleau would have been the youngest player in NHL history to reach the 700-game plateau. As it is, he was the eighth youngest at 27 years, 162 days.
"I think as a person, being a father and a husband, I think he's really getting to that balance, that maturity," Doug Wilson said. "I think he is at a point where he we should expect his best and I do see it coming."