Haggerty: Pondering the future of Marchand

Haggerty: Pondering the future of Marchand
May 18, 2014, 11:45 pm
(USA Today Sports Images)

Brad Marchand was still “shocked” and “disappointed” days after his Bruins team dropped Game 7 of their second round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Certainly his goals scored goose egg might have had something to do with the shock and awe. Marchand was one of the Black and Gold poster boys for a Bruins offense that went dry at the absolute worst time, and produced only one empty net goal between Marchand, David Krejci and Milan Lucic.

Marchand did collect five assists in the first three games of the series against Montreal and was a difference-making force along with his linemates in the third period comeback for the Bruins in Game 2. But the Nose Face Killah disappeared with a zero point stat line in the final four games of the series with Boston dropping three of them to the hated Habs. The weak ending to his postseason leaves the Bruins agitator without a goal in his last 20 playoff games dating back to Game 2 of the 2013 conference finals against the Penguins.

That kind of Stanley Cup impotence for Marchand is the exact reason why doing a mock hoisting of the Cup in front of the Canucks bench in Vancouver rang more than a little hollow earlier this year. Living in the glory days of three years past is no way to go through NHL life, and maybe at times there’s a little bit too much of that with the current group of Bruins.

“I think every day that you wake up its a little more reality, and it gets more disappointing every day,” said Brad Marchand. “I think I can learn a lot from this year. I would have liked to perform a little better all year long, and in the playoffs especially.

“You need to focus come the playoffs, and that’s when you really need to be big. You really want to accomplish that, and I’ll have to focus even more on that for next time.”

He memorably punked Matt Cooke on a pretty sweet individual play early in that game, but has gone silent since that day. That’s far too long for a player that potted 25 goals this season for the Bruins, and has regularly posted 25-30 goals per season since becoming a regular in Boston.  

When one combines the offensive slowdown in the playoffs with Marchand’s penchant for taking penalties, it’s a toxic cocktail for the Boston Bruins that isn’t doing them a lot of good in the postseason. Some of it is clearly Marchand’s doing in the penalty department, but it’s also very apparent the agitator is getting “reputation” penalties called based on his previous body of work.

That’s why Marchand was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct for spraying Montreal goalie Carey Price in Game 7 while Habs forward Lars Eller was able to get away with doing the same thing to Tuukka Rask earlier in the series. It’s also the reason Marchand is whistled for a goalie interference call when the collision only happened because Andrei Markov crosschecked him in the neck while pushing him into Price.

It stands as one of the worst calls during the seven game series, and it seemed to be purely based on the referees assuming Marchand was at fault when everything was peeled away on both sides.

In the first round vs. Detroit he memorably skated off the ice limping on the wrong leg after a knee-on-knee collision with Brendan Smith, and then wasn’t able to draw a penalty for the rest of that series.

Marchand has voiced a desire in the past to get away from the agitating antics at least partially to avoid developing a reputation with the referees, but it would seem that is already too late. The embellishing, the post-whistle rabble-rousing and constantly playing on the edge has put him on the NHL officials’ watch list, and that’s not a good thing. It’s something that both head coach Claude Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli have noticed in the last few years.

“Every year I seem to have this comment about him finding a balance between being an irritant/agitator and a real good player. I think sometimes his antics get in the way. This has been a discussion I’ve had, we’ve had, Claude’s [Julien] has had over the course of three, four, five years,” said Chiarelli. “It’s a challenge for Brad [Marchand] to play that aggressive way, and not to cross the line. You’ve heard this from me a lot. If those were reputation calls I’d be disappointed, but sometimes that’s the reality.

“We both had productive [exit] meetings with Brad [Brad Marchand]. He scored 25 goals and he thought he had a bad year. That’s where he puts his expectations and we talked about that other stuff, and we had productive conversation. I don’t know what it is, but we have to dial back some of that [extracurricular] stuff, and that includes Marchy [Brad Marchand].”

It’s interesting that several times in the post-second round exit press conference Chiarelli spoke about dialing back the agitating stuff, and moving away from the “fisticuffs” as a trend where they’re following the league.

The real question for Marchand the Bruins is this: when does the lack of playoff production and lack of discipline become something Boston simply doesn’t want to deal with anymore? The second line left winger has averaged close to 20 goals and 50 points over the last four seasons, and he’s still only 26 years old entering his hockey prime. But he’s also signed for the next three years at $4.5 million and holds legitimate trade value around the NHL if the Bruins need to free up cap space this summer.

If Chiarelli wants to mix up the core a little bit after a playoff letdown, then dealing a player like Marchand would be one of the more viable options. It would certainly free up needed cap space with players like Torey Krug and Reilly Smith looking for new deals, and any Marchand swap would bring back a significant talent return.

Is it worth it to cut bait on Marchand, or can things be salvaged for a player that hasn’t really helped the Bruins in their last three playoff series, of which they’ve lost two of them?

Only Chiarelli and the B’s front office can answer that question after similarly making players available on the trade market last June after a particularly lackluster postseason performance. There were whispers Marchand’s name was being kicked around last summer when the Bruins discussed revamping their forward group, and those murmurs might get much louder this summer as Boston needs to decide what – if anything – needs to be fundamentally changed for a hockey club that underachieved greatly in this year’s playoffs.