Without a doubt, Boston Bruins’ left wing Brad Marchand is one of the most polarizing active players in the National Hockey League. He is at the same time a masterful goalscorer and a pest for the ages. Bruins fans love him. Fans of just about every other team hate him. His relationship with league officials? It’s complicated.
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Straight up skill-wise, Marchand has put up numbers that, taken on their own, make a solid argument that he belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame when he hangs up the skates. He is coming off his first 100-point season in 2018-19 and was already at 87 points in 70 games played in 2019-20 before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt.
In 751 games played, all of them in a Bruins uniform, Marchand has contributed 290 goals and 356 assists for a total of 646 points. And he’s only 31 years old. So, it stands to reason that the player who currently sits in seventh place among the team’s all-time leading goal scorers will be lighting the lamp for several more years and adding to those impressive totals.
If having his name etched on the Stanley Cup increases a player’s chance of getting a Hall call, Marchand checked that box early in his career. He is one of a handful of current Bruins left on the team from the 2011 Cup win. For a second-year player, the Nova Scotia native definitely helped that team reach the pinnacle of hockey, putting up 21 goals and 20 assists and a plus-25 rating in the 2010-11 season.
Wet and Wild
Marchand has shown no signs of slowing down, with 85 or more points in each of the past four seasons, including the currently suspended one. However, one debate that divides hockey fans is whether the player dubbed “The Little Ball of Hate” has matured in recent years into a player more interested in helping the team win than pushing the buttons of on-ice officials and opposing players. That’s a tough one.
If Marchand does make the Hall of Fame, he would certainly be among the very few inductees, if not the only one, to have been reprimanded by the NHL for licking opponents during a game. In fact, he did just that two times in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, using the unusual diversionary tactic on Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ryan Callahan of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Although Marchand has kept his tongue to himself since, he still found himself at the center of a controversy a year later in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. Many Columbus Blue Jackets fans believed the Boston winger should have been suspended for a hit to the back of the head of the Jackets’ Scott Harrington, although the league ultimately disagreed.
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Marchand has been suspended a total of six times in his career. Although the suspensions may have slowed in recent years, his reputation has earned him numerous trips to the penalty box during game action. It’s safe to say he rarely gets the benefit of the doubt from game officials, and that is surely a major factor in the 82 penalty minutes he’d already racked up in the 2019-20 campaign.
Speaking His Mind
As boisterous and aggravating as he can be on the ice, Marchand also rarely holds back his thoughts, or criticisms, in media scrums and press conferences. For example, he publicly called out the TD Garden crew for what he deemed to be poor ice conditions during the 2019 playoffs and offered only curt, sharp-tongued answers to the media after his team won the Columbus series.
It’s easy to wonder if Marchand’s antics take away from his focus on the game. A few times during last season’s playoffs and one particularly glaring incident earlier this year suggest that they might.
As mentioned, Marchand got upset with the media coverage of his play during the Blue Jackets playoff series last April. After that, he essentially disappeared, having little to no impact on the rest of the Bruins’ deep playoff run. In all fairness, linemates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak also struggled to produce during the 2019 postseason, but all eyes were, as usual, on Marchand.
Then, on Jan. 13, 2020, the tide turned in a big way on the king of chirps after Marchand overskated the puck during a shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers. The problem was, Marchand did swipe his stick over the puck but fanned. As a result, the move counted as a missed shot, and the game ended with the Flyers on top.
No Pests Allowed?
Obviously, there’s no rule that says world-class agitators cannot be Hall inductees. In fact, that role is one that has been perfected by a handful of players over the decades. But looking at more recent history, it seems many of those guys will be better remembered for that part of their game than for their talent.
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Could Marchand have attained superstar status if he never decided to play the class clown? It’s quite possible. That very reputation that may have kept a very good hockey player from rising to the ranks of the elite could, unfortunately, also cost him a nod as one of the greatest to ever play the game.