Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand is an outstanding player but his dirty play is tarnishing his legacy
There are certain athletes who are polarizing. In the NHL, there’s no player more polarizing than Boston Bruins wing Brad Marchand. The only other player close to him is Sidney Crosby. And unlike Sid The Kid, Marchand deserves his polarizing status. When casual hockey fans think of him, they know him more for his dirty hits than his stellar, borderline Hart Trophy-caliber play.
Going into Tuesday, Jan. 23, Marchand had been suspended five times for his actions during his career. You could argue that number should be higher considering what he hasn’t been suspended for. In Tuesday’s game, a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, Marchand elbowed forward Marcus Johansson in the head.
It’s hard to read intent, but knowing his history, he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. Johansson had to leave the game and, for whatever reason, Marchand didn’t even get a penalty on the play. But the NHL Department of Player Safety will have a hearing for this play and supplemental discipline is expected.
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Marchand could be known as an annual Hart Trophy candidate. Heck, his defensive play is great enough to warrant serious Selke Trophy consideration, even if you consider his center is four-time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron. Marchand could be remembered as an amazing player who played with a chip on his shoulder larger than his 5-foot-9 frame.
But because he hasn’t yet learned to harness his reckless playing style, he’s going to be remembered in a more negative manner. Marchand’s legacy will be tied to the following events more than anything else.
- Spearing Jake Dotchin
- Elbowing R.J. Umberger in the back of the head
- Clipping Sami Salo
- Slew-footing Derick Brassard
- Clipping Mark Borowiecki
Those are just the things he’s been suspended for. Marchand has done countless other questionable things that further advance his reputation as a dirty player. Though the Department of Player Safety can only consider his spear of Dotchin as far as being a repeat offender is concerned (as mandated by the CBA), all of his offenses lead to one conclusion. Among fans, Marchand is tarnishing what could be a fascinating, unique legacy.
Will he be remembered in a similar manner as Theoren Fleury? More for being a controversial player than being one of the best power forwards of all-time? If so, it’s a tragedy. Marchand should be known as an excellent player. A player you might loathe having to face on another team, but also the kind you’d proudly wear the sweater of if he’s on yours.
Marchand plays every shift like he’s trying to prove every person who has told him he can’t do something wrong. This is both a blessing and a curse for him. It gives Marchand the fire and drive necessary to be an elite level player. But it also causes him to do unnecessarily reckless things to other players.
He has made his bed to this point. Whether or not Marchand should be defined by his dirty plays is irrelevant. That’s how people see him. It’s never too late to re-write your legacy. Think about Ray Bourque. He went from being an excellent player who could never lead his team to a Stanley Cup to being an all-time great defenseman by helping the Colorado Avalanche win a title.
Mark Messier went from being the Robin to Wayne Gretzky’s Batman to being arguably the greatest captain in NHL history by winning two Stanley Cups without number 99. Every person who has called Alex Ovechkin a choke artist would be lining up to kiss his feet if he wins a Stanley Cup.
It might not be too late for Marchand to clean up his game and be remembered for being an outstanding player. But he’s got to start doing that soon. Hopefully, Marchand’s latest incident is the wakeup call he needs because the window to change his legacy is closing.