EDMONTON — Two years ago, Patrick Maroon may not have cashed in on his big opportunity in unrestricted free agency, but he surely wouldn’t complain with how everything has worked out.
He won a Stanley Cup with his hometown St. Louis Blues last year and now is in a position to potentially win his second Cup in as many years this year with the Lightning.
Maroon may not be the hired gun that gives the Lightning a jolt of potent offense, but the big power forward brings everything else to the table.
Toughness, tenacity, grit and leadership, and Maroon has flourished in his role with the Lightning this season.
“Patrick Maroon wasn’t brought in here to play on our top line. He was brought in here for what he brings to the room, what he brings on the ice and on our second power-play unit,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “You give guys a role, and he’s really accepted his. He wasn’t used too much differently in St.Louis than he is here, but he’s contributed.”
Maroon scored a career-high 27 goals in the 2016-17 season, flanking the left wing of Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid.
He followed it up with another 20-plus goal campaign and recorded back-to-back 40-plus point seasons. But when teams came calling, an opportunity to play a top-six role wasn’t in the cards.
So Maroon dug deep and is excelling in a role as a grinder and physical presence.
Throughout most of these playoffs, Cooper has gone with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, which cuts into Maroon’s ice time. But the 32-year-old just wants to contribute any way he can.
“I know where I’m at in my career. I know my responsibility, I’m playing on the fourth line with Cedric Paquette,” said Maroon. "We’ve done a good job (in the playoffs) of managing the puck. If it’s seven-and-a-half minutes or 12 minutes, we just have to continue to grow as a line.
“If we can find ways to score a goal, that’s a plus, but if we can find ways to wear their “D” down and get the puck in the offensive zone and find ways to wear them out and get second and third opportunities, we’re doing our job.”
Part of the Lightning’s to-do list this year was to add some grit and experience throughout the lineup, and general manager Julien BriseBois' signing of Maroon brings that element to the team in a big way.
But the biggest thing that Maroon brings to the table is his leadership. He doesn’t wear a letter on his jersey, but he’s one of the vocal leaders on the Lightning.
The Lightning have players on their roster with Stanley Cup final experience, but Maroon is the only player who’s won a Cup.
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Cup-winning experience goes a long way in the NHL. The last time a team won the Cup without a player who had won a Cup previously was the 1989 Calgary Flames.
Maroon’s experience is something the team is leaning on heavily. Last year, the Lightning didn’t have a single player on their roster who had previously won a Cup.
“A guy like him, you can rely on him. Whenever he talks in the room, everybody listens,” said Lightning forward Yanni Gourde. “He brings tons of leadership in this locker room and tons of poise as we need to have a bit more composure sometimes. It’s great to have him, especially with the experience he had last year.”
Maroon is relishing his role on the Lightning and is solely focused on helping his teammates that have experienced several moments of playoff heartbreak over the years win a Stanley Cup.
“I have a Cup under my belt, but this team in the locker room has been to plenty of conference finals and a Stanley Cup final,” said Maroon. "They’re looking to get over that hump to achieve their ultimate goal, and if my voice can carry into the locker room and help out in any way, that’s a huge part of me. If they have questions about what it takes, I’ll answer them, but I just want to be a good leader.
“We have that no-quit mentality in our locker room. I’m so proud of these guys. We have to keep having that mindset of working hard, keep picking each other up and having each other’s back, and good things will keep happening with this group.”