The Brad Marchand Conundrum

September, 2015. Five months after Boston’s tragic end to the 2014-15 season, the Bruins are back in action, as training camp, and preseason games are underway once again in Boston. Plenty of questions surround Boston’s lineup, but anyone watching the Bruins can agree on one thing: Brad Marchand has come out flying.

Following Boston’s bitter end to the season, chaos ensued in Beantown. Peter Chiarelli was ousted, Claude Julien’s job status was ‘to be determined’, and key players were in the middle of trade discussions. One of those players was Brad Marchand.

Marchand, who netted 24 goals and 18 assists in 2014-15, was taking a lot of heat from the media, as well as fans. Despite his ability to score, Marchand’s on-ice antics had fed up many Bruins fans, who were tired of seeing #63’s edgy play go over the line. Some called for his departure from Boston. Others wanted to give him one more chance.

When September rolled around, the Bruins brass had chosen to go with the latter. As the preseason kicked into full gear, they immediately became satisfied with their decision. Just days into training camp, it was clear that Marchand was coming in with a different attitude than usual.

“He’s come in in unbelievable shape, probably his best shape ever,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien, per “And that’s not to say he wasn’t in good shape before, but he’s in even better shape now. He’s doing the things and showing the things that indicate that he wants to be a real good leader and wants to lead by example.”

“I think he wants to really be a good example this year. He’s come in with a real good attitude, thinking it’s time for him to step up and take an even bigger role than before. He’s always been a pretty good guy in the dressing room as far as the things that have to be done in order to win, whether it’s trying to rally the guys or that kind of stuff. But he’s taken that next step, again. And again, leading by example is always a great way to do it.”

The idea of taking on a leadership role was certainly different for Brad Marchand. the 6-year veteran is known league-wide to be an agitator – a very talented one at that – but an agitator nonetheless. But, as someone who sat on the hot-seat all summer, he understood that his role needed to evolve, however uncomfortable it may be.

“I think it’s just kind of where I’m at now,” said Marchand, who participated in the last of Friday’s three practice sessions. “I’m one of the older guys if you look around the room. It’s a bit of a weird position to be in, but I am looking at taking more of a leader role. It’s something that I’m going to have to force a little bit, but we’ve got a lot of great guys that kind of take over when the time’s right with Bergy (Patrice Bergeron), Kells (Chris Kelly) and Z (Zdeno Chara), and I can kind of sit back at the right time. But great guys to learn from, and I’m just looking forward to start the year.”

It was clear that Brad Marchand was ready to take on a new role for the upcoming season. But, it was time to put his money where his mouth is.

The Conundrum

As we head into 2016, we’ve seen enough hockey to lay out a partial verdict for Brad Marchand this year. However, before we jump into the verdict, it’s important that we begin by identifying the issue – that being the line.

The line. It’s something that Brad Marchand has straddled for his entire career. The balance between edgy and dirty is tough to hold onto as an agitator, but it’s vital to your success, especially with a player like Brad Marchand.

There’s no doubting that Brad Marchand is talented. Since breaking in full-time with the Bruins five years ago, Marchand has posted consistently productive offensive numbers, while keeping to true Bruins form with a strong plus-minus rating playing alongside Patrice Bergeron. In his first 36 games this season, Marchand has already put up 26 points, and currently sits as Boston’s fifth-leading scorer despite missing several games.

However, he proved recently that he hasn’t completely grown out of his on-ice antics – even if his behavior has improved a bit.

Marchand was given a three-game suspension after a stupid clipping infraction in Boston’s final game before the long-awaited Winter Classic.

To make matters worse, David Krecji was already down and out with an injury, which meant that Marchand’s suspension put Boston down two of its top-four point-getters headed into the Winter Classic. Simply put, it was some of the worst timing that Brad Marchand could earn an idiotic suspension, and yet, that’s exactly what he did. That’s not the leadership that Marchand preached four months ago.

The problem in this scenario is that there is no clear solution. The key to Marchand’s success, and Boston’s success with it, lies within the left-wingers ability to strike the right balance between edgy hockey and good agitation.

It’s important to note that playing on the edge isn’t a bad thing in itself. For a player like Marchand, his ability is fueled by hard-nosed, on-the-edge style play. When effectively channeled, Marchand can score highlight-reel goals and can light a fire under his team. However, it’s important to keep on the right side of the line, which is something that Marchand has struggled with throughout his career.

For Bruins fans, only time will unveil the fate of Marchand’s future. Bruins fans would hope that the chippy left-winger could pick up a thing or two from long-time linemate Patrice Bergeron, and establish himself as an energetic, and even edgy player – but a clean one – something that the 27-year-old has yet to achieve.

Much of Boston’s success, and certainly #63’s future, will depend on finding that right balance.

See more from Cam Hasbrouck here. Follow him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck and The Hockey Writers @TheHockeyWriter