Being a lifelong fan of the Boston Bruins, I have seen a lot of players put on the jersey with the “Spoked B.” I can’t help but compare players from the current team to those that played for the Black and Gold in the '80s and '90s. Oh, those were the days!
Everyone knows about the much publicized Milan Lucic-Cam Neely comparisons over the last few years.
Lucic is getting there especially with his impressive 30-goal campaign this year, but he is not there as of yet. He needs to string at least four to five of those seasons together, mixing in a 40-goal outburst or two, to be considered on the “Sea Bass” elite status level.
However, I see another comparison on the current Bruins squad to a player of yesteryear. Every Bruins fan loves the gritty, under-your-skin play of rookie Brad Marchand.
In the 2010-11 season, Marchand has exceeded everyone’s expectations—probably even his own. The 22-year-old from Halifax, has definitely made an impact in his first season in the NHL.
After bouncing around juniors for a few years, Marchand was picked 71st overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Boston. He played a few seasons in Providence before being called up to the parent club during 2009-10.
He played 20 games that year, mostly on the checking line, posting one assist and a minus-three. Not much was expected of him that year, but he worked his way up the ladder.
Marchand started the season on the checking line with Thornton and Campbell before graduating to the second scoring line with Bergeron and Recchi. He is not just a mucker on the ice, but he can score goals and has flourished thus far in his new offensive role.
In 72 games, Marchand has scored 21 goals and added 19 assists for 40 points in his freshman campaign.
However, Marchand still prides himself on his gritty, chippy defensive play. He is an outstanding penalty killer and can beat you shorthanded as well. He is amongst the league leaders with five “shorties.”
“Brado,” as he called by his beloved fans, also does not shy away from confrontation. He will mix it up with guys twice his size (he is only 5’9”, 183 lbs.). He will spout off on how much he dislikes Les Habitants De Montreal.
And yeah, he will throw the occasion elbow (he was suspended for two games for elbowing Columbus Blue Jackets center R.J. Umberger), just one of the many ways he becomes a disruption for the opposition.
Marchand is just a modern day “Rat 2.0.”
Don’t get the reference? Well, if you know your Bruins history, you will know that the “Rat” is the nickname of one Kenny Linseman, who played for Boston from 1984-89.
He too was an agitator and yapped a lot on the ice. He would get under the other team’s skin at every opportunity. Linseman was also a culprit of the “borderline” hit and well placed slash.
He racked up his fair share of penalty minutes as well (he had 167 PIMs during the 1987-88 season). Some say he was a dirty player.
To compliment his chippy-ness, Linseman could also put the puck in the net. His best season in a Bruins uniform was 1985-86, when he posted 81 points (23 goals and 58 assists) in just 64 games due to injury.
When Linseman was healthy, he was a multi-threat. In the Bruins cup run during the 1987-88 season, the Rat scored 29 goals and 74 points. He continued playing at a high level in the playoffs that year by registering 25 points in 23 games.
Linseman would be traded to Philadelphia in 1990 for Dave Poulin, who would prove to be an important piece in yet another Bruins Stanley Cup run.
Granted, Marchand is not on Linseman’s level yet offensively, but the game has changed a lot since the '80s and those Bruins teams were stacked with the likes of Neely, Bourque and Janney.
There is no reason Marchand can’t be a 50- or 60-point player over his career. He has a nose for the net.
However, both players showed tenacity and were agitators by definition. Every team needs players like Marchand and Linseman that don’t mind getting their nose dirty and being the player that the opposition targets.
These masters of distraction open things up for the skilled players to do what they do best—score.
Marchand has been a breath of fresh air for Bruins fans who missed the chippy, physical players. Boston has been accused of being soft, but with players like Marchand in the lineup, teams no longer want to go blow for blow with the Black and Gold.
Joe Gill writes for Boston Sports Then and Now.