What Did Jeremy Roenick Do Wrong?

BUFFALO NY - OCTOBER 21: Jeremy Roenick talks with media during a media and greet at the 2010 USA Hockey Hall of Fame Inductions at HSBC Arena on October 21 2010 in Buffalo New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

There's little doubt about a few things.

One, Patrick Marleau played his best game of the playoffs Thursday night in San Jose. The former Sharks captain had produced a grand total of one point in 15 career Game 6 or Game 7 situations before scoring the eventual game-winner in San Jose's 3-2 win over Detroit.

Two, his performance came a few days after a grating, nationally-televised criticism from former teammate Jeremy Roenick. I wrote about this on my blog Monday. I didn't have a problem with Roenick calling out Marleau, though I do understand how some were put off by his choice of words.

Three, the two items are probably not very well-connected. Of course, that doesn't stop the world from jumping to conclusions, forgetting exactly how preposterous it is to suggest a professional athlete was skating around during the third period of a Game 7, thinking about how he could prove a television analyst wrong.

Finally, the hockey world's reaction to Roenick's commentary is exactly why former players tend to say vanilla things when they're on television.

Marleau's goal was important enough, but there were two defensive plays he made that were much more significant. He broke up two Detroit scoring attempts after Pavel Datsyuk's soft goal made it a 3-2 game, one on the power play and one in the final 30 seconds after Jimmy Howard was yanked for an extra attacker. Both were classic "forward hustles back to stop one-timer off centering pass to the middle of the slot" plays, and Marleau did what had to be done both times.

Roenick was smart to point them out after the game.

(No, he's not a master of the English language. Remember, he's a player-turned-analyst. We shouldn't be expecting Walter Cronkite here.)

He was also smart not to back too far off what he said on Sunday, when he called Marleau's Game 5 performance "gutless." What is said about Game 5 doesn't have to change because of what happens in Game 7, and Roenick recognized that.

While it might not have made him any Facebook friends within Marleau's family, Roenick wasn't calling Marleau a gutless player, a gutless person, or a gutless anything. He said Marleau's performance in Game 5 was gutless, implying that he knows Marleau is capable of raising his game to another level.

If anything, Marleau's Game 7 performance proved Roenick right, not wrong. Marleau was very good when his team needed him most, after coming up small in big moments both in Game 5 and Game 6.

So why are people ripping on Roenick at all? His analysis was spot on. And he wasn't afraid to call out a current player ... one he was teammates with just a few years ago.

Criticize the use of the word "gutless" all you want, but remember that Roenick is the antithesis of what we usually get from players-turned-analysts. Normally, they refuse to say anything remotely controversial, instead glossing over the bad to accentuate the good. It's not every day a guy like Roenick -- or, for that matter, Charles Barkley -- comes around. There's a reason for that.

Despite fans seemingly whining over analysts being too little like Barkley and too much like Jon Gruden (who loves everyone, it seems), whenever someone leans toward being like Barkley, we criticize them for being too strong with their words. Too biting with their critiques.

"Why can't you just be a nice guy? Never mind that we don't want you to be a nice guy, either!"

Hopefully, Roenick won't be deterred from future criticisms because of the things people said this time around. With all due respect to those who have come out and been hard on JR, you know you'd be just as hard on Versus if they hired another guy to come on and say nice things about everyone whose name comes up during pregame, intermission, and postgame segments.

In the end, we probably need more Roenicks on NHL broadcasts. They aren't always easy on the ears until they're more polished, but they're not afraid to speak their minds, and they make discussions about the games more enjoyable and interesting.

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