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Change Has Done Marleau a World of Good

by John Kreiser / San Jose Sharks
Patrick Marleau wears the same No. 12 and captain's "C" as last season. Those might be the only things that haven't changed for him.

To call Marleau's 2007-08 season a disappointment would be charitable. He had just 19 goals and 48 points while going minus-19 on a team that rolled to the Pacific Division title. But a coaching change -- Ron Wilson was replaced by former Detroit assistant Todd McLellan -- appears to be the best thing that's ever happened to Marleau.

Chicago Blackhawks center Dave Bolland, left, chases San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau during the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
For one thing, McLellan didn't know Marleau other than as an occasional opponent. That meant he had no preconceived notions -- and a willingness to think outside the box. In Marleau's case, that has meant moving him from center to left wing on a line with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi, creating one of the NHL's most dominant lines this season.

Marleau has 16 goals and 19 assists in the Sharks' first 30 games, putting him on a pace to shatter last season's totals and finish well ahead of his career bests of 34 goals and 86 points, set in 2005-06.

"I wasn't here last year. I know Patty only from training camp on," McLellan said after Marleau scored the game-winner in a come-from-behind 5-4 win against St. Louis on Dec. 13. "I know that he's enjoying the game. He's playing a different position and he's playing with some good players."

McLellan's system, in which the Sharks are more aggressive than they were under Wilson, also appears to be a better fit for Marleau.

"He's getting the puck to the net a lot more than in the past," McLellan said.

When asked about the biggest difference between last season and this season, McLellan said: "Probably just the confidence. It's amazing what confidence can do for a person, never
San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau, left, is chased by St. Louis Blues center Jay McClement.
mind a player."

Marleau's leadership skills also have come to the fore as the Sharks continue to dominate the Pacific Division.

"He's the captain of our team, and he's going to lead our team," Setoguchi said of his linemate.

"He's played great for us. He's taken charge and he's playing great."

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.
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