The St. Louis Blues journey to where they are now would be sweet no matter the circumstance. However, the personal journey of Pat Maroon to compliment it all has just added glorious icing to a fantastic cake.
If you do not feel a great welling of emotion with the story of St. Louis Blues forward Pat Maroon, you must be dead inside or have a personal vendetta against him or one of his family members. The way his ups and downs have mirrored the team and even how his journey brought him to St. Louis in the first place is a made-for-TV movie of the week.
The fact that Maroon made it to the NHL is a great story in and of itself. Maroon had talent in spades, but his size gave him an early advantage that was almost his undoing.
During his time with the St. Louis Bandits, which I was fortunate enough to cover his games, you could see a ton of talent in there. He had soft hands and slick moves to go along with pro-style size and enough strength to think he had a shot at going pro.
The problem was that advantage over his peers at a young age never prepared him from a work ethic stand point. Maroon admitted in an ESPN piece by Emily Kaplan that he was fine for games, but it was the little things like practice habits and taking care of himself off the ice that were hard.
“They say ‘keep your nose clean.’ I was keeping my nose dirty,” Maroon told Kaplan of playing in the AHL. “You’re making 40 grand, you’re living on your own, you’re living with roommates who party, you party, things can get a little sideways at times. I knew how to play hockey, that’s it. I didn’t know how to take care of myself off the ice.”
He was ready to retire after being dismissed from the Philadelphia Flyers, but was given second life when traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He worked his way up to their NHL club and even got time on the top line.
That would become a theme as he played top line minutes with the Edmonton Oilers too. Maroon garnered enough fan support north of the border that a few fans have traded in their blue and orange for blue and yellow for this playoff run.
Even then, things were not easy for Maroon. He had a great, but short run with the New Jersey Devils and even considered re-signing with them.
That’s where the story gets interesting. About a quarter of the way into the season, rumors started coming out that Maroon may have actually preferred staying in New Jersey, but it was his agent that had him sign in St. Louis for less money so they could bet on themselves for the seasons to follow.
That threw a little wrench in what had been a heartwarming story about Maroon wanting to be closer to his son, in St. Louis. We all saw the raw emotion in a video following a goal scored for Edmonton against the Blues when speaking about his son.
So, it took a little of the shine off that story when the rumbles said it might not have been the main reason after all. Nevertheless, whatever the reason he was in St. Louis, he was with the Blues and it did not go well right away.
Maroon struggled in the early going, trying to fit in with new teammates while also suddenly juggling a home life he had not had to deal with before since his son was always in another city. Maroon got some early assists, but it took 16 games before he got his first goal in a Blues uniform.
It took another 10 games to get his second. Then, there was a huge drought where he did not score a goal from mid-January until March 9.
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The struggle was real for Big Rig. He was scratched from the lineup a few times during those winter months and could not find any rhythm with any linemates or any success under Mike Yeo.
Finally, Craig Berube found the solution and, as Maroon said, revitalized Big Rig’s career. Berube gave him the confidence that he could do great things with this team and also gave him the job of supporting Robert Thomas‘ upbringing along with Tyler Bozak.
Maroon’s job, along with Bozak, was to do the dirty work and allow Thomas’ creativity to shine. It has worked in spades.
Maroon said after his series clinching goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals that being paired with those two saved his season. If that is true, it may have saved his career too.
Maroon is scheduled to be a free agent in the summer of 2019. If things had stopped for him in January or February, there would not have been many offers. Even Blues fans were unlikely to want him back, even considering his hometown boy status.
The feeling was mutual early on. In one of those friend of a friend scenarios, I learned that Maroon wanted out of town. Likely that was due to the awful play of the team at the time, but it was hard to hear.
You understand where he was coming from, but from the fan perspective, it is hard to feel spurned by someone who was in your shoes with loving and rooting for a team not long ago and being lucky enough to pull on that sweater.
However, a funny thing happened on the way out of town. Maroon found chemistry with his linemates and the Blues found chemistry with themselves.
The line of Maroon, Bozak and Thomas has survived longer than any other this postseason and at the end of the regular season. Even some of the most productive top lines the Blues threw together hit a wall and got split up, but that trio has stood the test of time because of how they compliment each other despite their individual differences in style.
That made them one of the most dynamic lines in both playoff series against Winnipeg and Dallas. The points were not always there, but they were consistently some of the best out there.
Due to that confidence of knowing your job, Maroon has thrived. He was a huge presence against Winnipeg as an agitator.
He provided that against Dallas, but also found some well timed offense. He scored two goals against the Stars, both of which were game winners and one of which was the series clincher.
The story of a hometown kid scoring the game winning goal in overtime is pure gold in and of itself. Then, when you bring in the family aspect of it all, it just squeezes all the cold out of your heart and leaves some rainbows and puppies and kittens in that spot.
Making that part even more touching was the fact his son did not even see the goal. In true kid fashion, he was looking at the stats of all the players in the team program when everyone exploded in joy. Jordan Binnington‘s girlfriend apparently had to tell him his dad scored and the boy could not hold it back and many fans had the same reaction.
The only thing making this rougher for fans to deal with is the fact we all hope the story is far from over. You’ve got so many storylines with the team’s resurgence, combined with the out of nowhere phenomenon of Laura Brannigan’s Gloria and now all this Maroon emotion, but we are only halfway to where we want to be.
St. Louis still needs eight more wins to climb the mountaintop. Those may be the hardest eight wins in the history of this franchise.
Maroon will be there to help with the climb and his broad shoulders are wide enough to help with that burden. Still, it’s hard not to marvel at how far he has come along with this team and in his career. Hopefully there are still more moments for him to come.