Toronto Maple Leafs: Patrick Marleau’s pursuit of Gordie Howe

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Patrick Marleau
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Patrick Marleau /

After reaching the 1,500-game mark, how realistic is it to expect Toronto Maple Leafs winger Patrick Marleau’s to catch and surpass Gordie Howe’s all-time record?

It’s still early in the season, but there has already been plenty for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans to celebrate. For example, the team is off to a great start, they’re scoring for fun and Auston Matthews continues to show he’s the real deal.

Wednesday night provided more reason to celebrate, and not just because the Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings 6-3. The night also marked a special occasion for Patrick Marleau.

More specifically, Marleau played his 1,500th regular season game in the NHL. To put this into perspective, he is just the 18th player in league history to reach this milestone.

Almost immediately, thoughts turned to the 1997 second overall draft pick’s chances of reaching the all-time record. This mark is currently held by a certain Gordie Howe, who played 1,767 regular season games.

At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss Marleau’s chances. However, when you take a closer look and consider several factors, his pursuit may not be as unrealistic as some might believe.

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To begin with, let’s keep this nice and simple. Let’s assume the Swift Current, Saskatchewan native plays out his entire three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If Marleau managed this, it would take him to 1,739 games. So in theory, just one more season would see him break Howe’s record. (Pending how much longer Jaromir Jagr decides to play.)

Of course, this is based on the premise the former San Jose Shark remains healthy. However, even here, there is a good chance he can do just this.

Consider that Marleau has not missed a single regular season game since the 2008-09 campaign. In fact, save for the strike years, he has never played less than 74 games – and that was in his rookie season.

In a game as physical as hockey, this is nothing short of remarkable. Having said that, at some point you figure age has to become a factor, for a player who recently turned 38.

However, Mike Babcock — who knows a thing or two about the game — sees no reason for Marleau to slow down anytime soon. As reported by Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston, the Leafs coach said:

"“He’s a fit guy, he’s genetically blessed, he works at it hard and he’s a great skater. It’s one thing to get 1,500 (games) and it’s another thing to be as good as he is.“To play with the pace he does, and the kind of person he is. Pretty special. Pretty special for our team, actually.”"

As for Marleau himself, he’ll keep going as long as he feels good, but admits he has an extra motivation to keep playing. Also reported by Johnston, he said:

"“I’m going to keep going as long as I can. I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet.”"

If Mrs. Marleau can keep motivating her husband to continue playing, that’s okay with everyone associated with the NHL. And whether he gets the chance to break Howe’s (or Jagr’s) record in Southern Ontario or somewhere else, you imagine Toronto Maple Leafs fans will celebrate as loud as anyone.

Next: Leafs' prospect roundup

What’s your position on Marleau’s pursuit of the all-time games record? How confident are you in his ability to catch and surpass Howe? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.