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Marleau Celebrates His Sweet 1,600

1,600 regular-season games in the National Hockey League is an absurd accomplishment. Patrick Marleau of the Maple Leafs got there Monday night. The 39 year old celebrated his Sweet 1,600 with 17 minutes of ice-time and an assist on the game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins.

To put that number in perspective, sixteen hundred games is nearly 20 full 82-game seasons straight; and that's not including the grueling grind of the playoffs which Patty is no stranger to with nearly 200 playoff games. While most people are trying to play hooky throughout their careers, Marleau has been playing hockey, not missing a single game since the spring of 2009. At this rate, assuming he plays another full 82 games this season and next, he will be 3rd all-time on this prestigious list. This type of longevity requires mental and physical toughness that very few possess. Unless you're from the Canadian prairies where they breed these complete hockey players.

Mr. Hockey taping his twig at 51 years of age, with the untouchable record of 1767 games played, amassing over 1850 points and 1685 penalty minutes.

Alberta's Mark Messier who sits second on this list of longevity. Accumulating 1756 games played with 1887 points and 1912 PIMs.

If Marleau plays his third and final year as a Leaf next season, not only will he be headed to the Hall of Fame, but he will sitting with elite company with his fellow prairie boys in the top 3. A major testament to the resilience of hockey players from Western Canada.

However, members of the media and new-age hockey fans may feel that a 40 year old Marleau with declining stats may not be an appropriate fit for the team at 6.25 million a year. Sure, his scoring output is a far cry from 2010 when he won a gold medal with Canada at the Olympics and finished 4th in goals with 44. But he brings intangibles to the table that these experts might miss while they're filling out their scantrons and looking for advanced statistics.

The Leafs are in a tough spot against the cap hit next season. Depending how this Saturday plays out when Nylander either signs or doesn't, the Buds are going to have to make some tough decisions next summer. Unfortunately, Patty is on that red flag list, although the players and Babcock feel the Saskatchewan native has nothing to worry about. His offensive contribution may not be worth 6.25m, but his experience and leadership is invaluable.

Almost every week, head coach Mike Babcock will give some form of praise to the 39 year old.

This type of player in the locker room can be one of the most significant pieces to a young team contending for the Stanley Cup. Especially since the only other player over 29 is Ron Hainsey.

Patty has naturally assumed the role of the franchises' father figure, with 4 of his own kids at home, and now 2 more at work, developing an unorthodox relationship with Marner and Matthews.

Tattoo this picture to my face.

Assuming the Leafs sign Willy, Matthews and Mitch, that's an annual average of at least 28m. And to add to this contract conundrum, Gardiner will be expecting a raise this summer as well.

Given these circumstances, most people assume Marleau won't be playing that final season in the blue and white. However, the Leafs have a surplus of offensively talented blue-liners in our system, and players like Marleau are the last of a dying breed.

That's the reality of being a strong team contending for the Stanley Cup. Nylander may be behaving like an NBA player with his contract demands as the teams 6th most valuable player, but hopefully he develops some better self-awareness in this final week of negotiations.

With or without Willy, the Buds are making a push these next few years. So get Patty a few more pairs of those 2006 Reebok pumps, because he has over a hundred more games to play and his first Stanley Cup to win.

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