The Boston Bruins are in a difficult position after missing the playoffs in the final games of the regular season the past two years. While remaining a playoff bubble team, the Bruins find themselves having to decide just how good this team is, and whether they need to undergo a partial rebuild.
The 2016-17 season will be, in all likelihood, the final straw for the Bruins. If they fail to make the playoffs once again, then it will be apparent that there are some serious changes needed yet again in Boston. A third-straight season without playoff hockey in Boston will likely result in GM Don Sweeney being shown the door.
On the flip side, a decent showing from the Bruins this season (that includes playoff hockey) might be all they need to prove that the past two seasons were merely a slump in the overall health of the organization and that a bright future lies ahead in Boston.
Regardless of where they’re headed, the Boston Bruins need to make Brad Marchand a priority.
Sweeney has already made it clear that the Bruins are focusing on contract talks with Marchand, whose contract runs out after this season. And while Sweeney has stated that the extension is towards the top of his list, it’s tough to stress how important a Marchand is to the team.
No matter where Boston is headed following this season, Marchand fits into the scheme. From a pure hockey standpoint, Marchand is a critical piece of Boston’s lineup, especially in the offensive zone. He posted a career-high 60 points last season alongside his loyal linemate Patrice Bergeron. The duo makes up for a solid portion of Boston’s offense, but are also valuable in special-teams positions.
Evidently, the Bergeron-Marchand combo has become a core piece of the Bruins roster, and one that they should hold onto regardless of what next season holds.
Meanwhile, Marchand has stated that he wants to take on a leadership role for the Bruins. The gritty winger has made a career for himself by playing on the edge, and in all likelihood will continue to do so. However, if he remains smart about his style of play – straying away from dirtier plays, such as the one that got him suspended from the Winter Classic – then Marchand really could become a leader for the Bruins.
There’s no doubting that Marchand brings it every single game, and he plays the energetic style that can spark a team. If he can prove he’s become a disciplined player, then there’s no reason that the Bruins couldn’t slap an “A” on his chest when Bergeron inevitably takes over the captain’s role in a few years.
Ultimately, Marchand’s place on the Bruins is not something that should be gambled. If the end of the season nears without any progress, there’s no doubting that Marchand will receive a ton of attention from the market. Sweeney and his team need to lock down one of their most valuable assets before mid-season so that there’s no temptation for Marchand to head anywhere else.
Letting him go would be another very good player that the Bruins have let walk – a situation that they’ve become all too familiar with.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!