Boston Bruins: Evaluating Brad Marchand’s complicated Hart Trophy case

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 11: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins looks on against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on February 11, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Boston Bruins defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-3. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 11: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins looks on against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on February 11, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Boston Bruins defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-3. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

There’s no question Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand is one of the best players in the NHL. But how strong is his Hart Trophy case? 

Each year, the Hart Trophy goes to the player deemed to be the most valuable to his own team. It’s an annual tradition to argue over what this means. Is the best player necessarily the most valuable one? This goes for all sports, not just the NHL. There might not be a more polarizing Hart Trophy candidate than Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

How you view him as an MVP candidate largely depends on your personal interpretation of the award. If you lean towards “the best player is the most valuable to his team”, you likely have Marchand somewhere on your hypothetical Hart Trophy ballot. However, he’s probably lower if you don’t think the best player is necessarily the most valuable.

The Case For Marchand

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First things first. There’s no arguing Marchand has a Hart Trophy case right now. He has 67 points (19th in the NHL) despite only playing in 52 games. Injuries and a five-game suspension have cost him games.

However, if you look at points per game, Marchand’s rate of 1.29 ranks fourth in the NHL. The only people above him are serious Hart contenders – Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin, and Nathan MacKinnon.

Marchand is doing this despite not having Patrice Bergeron around as of late. You could make the case the four-time Selke Trophy winner has been the Bruins best player, and you might not be wrong. But that doesn’t mean Marchand is any more or less valuable to his team.

It’s an injustice to only talk about his production because he’s also an excellent two-way forward. Wings traditionally aren’t that good defensively. A healthy portion of wings are centers who couldn’t handle the extra defensive responsibility. Marchand is the exception to this rule.

He’s a regular member of the Bruins penalty kill, averaging just under two minutes per game killing penalties. Among forwards who have spent at least 75 minutes short-handed, Marchand has the sixth-highest goals for percentage and fifth-highest scoring chances for percentage.

His dominance at even strength is well documented. Only Bergeron has a higher even strength goals for percentage than Marchand. He’s also among the league leaders in possession numbers and the Bruins are a much better team when their little ball of hate is on the ice.

Often, Hart Trophy candidates are the best player on one of the best teams. Given Marchand’s production and dominance on the ice, he fits the bill perfectly. You can dock him points for missing games (especially since five of those games were due to a suspension). But what you can’t deny is Marchand has been extremely valuable to the Bruins when he’s on the ice.

The Case Against Marchand

However, when discussing Marchand, you have to discuss the pink elephant in the room. He has a negative reputation around the league because of his lengthy disciplinary issues on the ice. Frankly, this reputation is warranted. It doesn’t matter what Marchand does for the rest of the season. Whether it’s fair or not, people are going to remember what he did to Marcus Johansson when considering his Hart Trophy case.

On paper, his 51 penalty minutes in 52 games looks like a lot. But a deeper dive suggests it’s not nearly as high as it might seem. Marchand has only gotten penalty minutes in 15 of 52 games. That’s roughly 29 percent.

12 of those penalty minutes came in one game against the Washington Capitals. So take away one game and he has 39 penalty minutes in 51 games. Still a bit high, but it looks a lot better. If you’re going to use the “Marchand isn’t valuable because he spends too much time in the penalty box”, it’s simply not a logical argument. Also, no one seemed to care that Chris Pronger nearly hdouble-digitgit penalty minutes when he won the Hart.

The Verdict

Personally, I lean towards the “best player is the most valuable player” side of the argument. Marchand definitely has a case. However, he’s probably missed too many games for me. Especially with guys like Kucherov, Taylor Hall, Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and MacKinnon tearing it up.

At best, Marchand would be barely in my top five. Hall, Malkin, and MacKinnon would clearly be above him if I had to vote today. The next two in my top five would be some combination of Marchand, Ovechkin, and Kucherov, with Kucherov most likely being somewhere in there.

Next: Bruins All-Time Team

If Marchand stops doing dumb stuff, maybe one day his excellence on the ice will be rewarded. It’s hard to see it happening this year, especially with him doing dumb stuff. Even if Marchand’s dumb stuff is much less common than in the past.