In turn, Marchand sandwiched a meaty middle of an eight-month campaign with two slices of musty white bread. Recall that he started the 2013-14 season with a slump and brief demotion from Boston’s top six.
With those first and final impressions in his fourth full NHL season, whispers of a potential export come as little surprise.
This past Wednesday, The Fourth Period’s Shawn Hutcheon reported that “it has been learned that the organization is exploring the market on winger Brad Marchand.”
That report came two weeks after Matt Kalman of CBS Boston opined, in reference to Marchand and Milan Lucic, “Scoring slumps are part of the game. Hurting your team with needless antics are grounds for seeking out a trade.”
Granted, those antics were an aspect of Marchand’s season that no one could ignore. Examples go as far back as mid-December, when he disregarded the present to remind the Vancouver Canucks of an achievement two-and-a-half years in the past.
But there ought to be ways to alleviate the problems without abandoning the player. In this case, enacting the threat of a trade could spearhead that solution.
Based on what Marchand said to WEEI.com writer DJ Bean, that could be the situation at hand. Within three days of Boston’s seven-game, second-round loss to Montreal, Marchand recalled the trade of former linemate Tyler Seguin shortly after the previous season.
As quoted by Bean, the 26-year-old left wing said, “A guy as talented as Segs gets traded at such an early age and it’s an eye-opener for everyone…Hopefully I’m not going anywhere, but that’s up to management and the coaching staff.”
There is much for management to consider besides Marchand’s meltdown late in 2013-14. Despite going goalless in four different stretches that lasted six-plus games—including one seven-game and one 12-game skid—he tuned the mesh 25 times in the regular season.
Imagine if he had his head in the right alignment for the full 82-game ride. He likely would have crafted a career campaign and joined Jarome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron at the team-leading 30-goal plateau.
The situations in which Marchand commonly clicked spoke to his skill set with extra decibels. The “assets” section of his online scouting report from The Hockey News notes that he “Is effective on the penalty kill. Confident with the puck, he produces in the clutch.”
Case in point: Five of his 25 regular-season goals were shorthanded and another five constituted game clinchers.
Marchand also had five winning tallies and a pair of shorties in 45 regular-season games in 2012-13. He had one goal on the penalty kill and three deciders in 2011-12. As a rookie in 2010-11, he tallied his first career NHL goal shorthanded and added four more in that situation.
Still, that all vanished with the snow outside when this past spring rolled around. The confidence, the clutch proficiency, the shorthanded jumpstarts, the works.
To exacerbate the regression, the plus points gave way to a plethora of penalties. Those included two in the first-round series clincher against Detroit and two apiece in Games 5 and 7 of the Montreal series.
In the 2014 playoffs, Marchand whiffed on 28 total stabs at the opposing net. Those do not even count the times he hit the highlight reel with a laundry list of egregious misses.
Since Game 3 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Final, Marchand is on a 20-game goalless skid in the postseason. He went pointless altogether in all six games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final and this year’s five-game first-round bout.
That trend makes it worth remembering that, in the “flaws” section, THN’s evaluation adds that Marchand “Isn’t a natural goal-scorer, so he has to work hard for his goals.” By now, everyone has seen a telling sample of what happens when he works hard enough and when he does not.
Equally vital is the notion that the Bruins are a team whose postseason scrutiny ought to eclipse their regular-season assessment. Projecting whether Marchand will pivot back in the right direction when the next playoffs roll around is an indispensable variable.
If Boston’s brass is going to be comfortable keeping Marchand, it must be sure that he will replenish the form that translated to 11 goals in the 2011 tournament.
Multiple whiffs on open nets cannot keep going to his head. Neither can the Canadiens under any circumstances. Nor can he afford to keep pulling borderline dives like he did in Game 3 of the opening round.
In the wake of the Bruins’ Game 7 loss to the Habs, Marchand did as much as he could to secure a continued alliance with the Spoked-Bs. He owned up to his shortcomings.
In the May 16 paper, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe quoted him as saying, “Speaking for myself, I didn’t play the way I know I can and didn’t capitalize.”
In the same article, he offered, “I think sometimes maybe focusing too much on other stuff and being chippy and not just playing the game.”
To his credit, Marchand made it known that he appreciates his capabilities and that he bungled his big-game aptitude this year. As best as any ex post facto speech can indicate, he yearns to carry a cooler head onto a clean sheet. And he prefers to do so in the same Spoked-B attire he has donned for four-plus years.
Whether his words translate to action is another matter. So is the salary cap.
As of this weekend, per Capgeek.com, the Bruins have $9,120,357 of free room entering 2014-15. Among the space that is already filled, Marchand boasts the sixth-heaviest individual cap hit at $4.5 million.
There are other ways to create space, and that cap hit might just as easily complicate a possible Marchand trade. Regardless of how the Bruins would go about filling the resultant second-line vacancy, dealing him would require an enthused suitor.
Such a suitor’s existence could become more apparent in the three remaining months until training camp. Or it might surface in the early-to-middle phases of the 2014-15 season.
By then, assuming he is still in Boston, Marchand will have had a chance to redress after last autumn’s nosedive.
Unless the Bruins find an irresistible, time-sensitive alternative between now and September, they should give him that chance.
Marchand is one of 12 Boston skaters who partook in the 2011 championship, the 2013 journey to the final and the 2013-14 season. In the wake of the latter letdown, he should have a genuine incentive for a do-over.
If Seguin’s export opened one of Marchand’s eyes, as he told the aforementioned Bean, the second-round crumble after two conference playoff crowns and a Presidents' Trophy should open the other.
Unlike Seguin, a former No. 2 overall draft pick, Marchand is accustomed to proving himself when doubts glower upon him. After letting one cycle of success desiccate, he is in a position to prove himself all over again next season.
It is on Boston’s front office to keep him on their side while he is in that position. With a medium-length leash, they can reprise the consistently producing, mildly-to-moderately agitating, steadfastly penalty-killing and reliably clutch Marchand.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com
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