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Boston Bruins Winger Brad Marchand Must Act Like a Veteran in 2014-15

Al DanielCorrespondent IISeptember 14, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 30:  Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins celebrates Andrej Meszaros's goal against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 30, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Multiple milestones await Brad Marchand this fall. He enters his fifth full season with the Boston Bruins eight goals and six assists away from breaking 100 in his career total under each heading.

Naturally, that would entail reaching 200 regular-season points in his NHL career. He has 186 to date and should have little trouble reaching the new threshold before Thanksgiving.

The emphasis in that last sentence lies in “should.”

With consistent effort and production comes the concomitant expectation that Marchand translates his recent words into action. Upon arriving to tune up for training camp last week, the second-line left wing attempted to pinpoint the culprits behind several slumps that sullied his 2013-14 season.

Per The Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin, Marchand offered, “I felt like my conditioning had to be up a bit. I thought that was where I kind of struggled last year. So I tried to focus a little more on that and more mental aspects of the game.”

One can debate how much reformation is actually in order for his offseason and in-season training. Regardless, the key takeaway from that press address is that Marchand has voiced a vow to rinse out the residual, largely self-imposed vinegar.

There is no turning back from that as the coming season begins with formal training camp this week.

Marchand’s final stat line of 25 goals, a career-best 28 assists and 53 points may temporarily bandage the abrasions of underachievement on his 2013-14 game log. But there is no escaping the prom-night pimple persona he took on in the playoffs.

His 2014 postseason scoring line: 0-5-5 in 12 outings. Then there is the videographic evidence of egregious whiffs at the opposing cage, which served to sustain that goose egg.

Then there were other face-palming clips, such as this one of an unnecessary biff at Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec the night the Canadiens eliminated the Bruins.

Five months prior to that, there was the ring-kissing incident in Vancouver, where Marchand’s allies were dropping a 6-2 decision.

WINNIPEG, MB - SEPTEMBER 26: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins is congratulated by teammate Brad Marchand #63 after his goal against Ondrej Pavelev #31 of the Winnipeg Jets in first period action during an NHL preseason game at the MTS Centre on S
Marianne Helm/Getty Images

Whether or not he files those under the various “mental aspects” he speaks of, Marchand needs to make their riddance a part of his follow-through. Although he has long worn an “agitator” label, he has yet to find the smooth medium where extracurricular endeavors do not undermine his task, let alone that of the team.

Amidst the slump that preceded every aforementioned moment, he addressed that search himself. In mid-October of last season, he pointed to the lingering effects of his five-game suspension from January of 2012.

In a report for Mass Live at the time, reporter Amanda Bruno quoted Marchand as follows:

I think it’s very easy to tell that after my suspension, I’ve calmed down a lot in that area. It is tough; I don’t want to be sitting out eight to 10 games if I do something wrong again. So you do have to juggle that, but at the same time, I have to do my job and just try to play physical when I can.

Some of that statement was fair, although it was easy enough for one to perceive a streak of excuse-making in it.

For the preseason and the young phases of the 2014-15 regular season, that slump and that statement have every right to stand by in the discussion. Marchand had to address a depth-chart demotion that came amidst a one-goal, one-point, six-game start to 2013-14.

The fact that he sprinkled three assists over his next eight outings and did not tally firsthand again until Nov. 7 did little to alleviate his cause.

Given various developments in the organization over the past year, a duplicate stumble this autumn would only jut out higher. In this summer’s free-agency spree, the Bruins lost the services of 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla and the intangibles of another 37-year-old forward in Shawn Thornton.

With that, the strike force has grown substantially younger over the summer. In turn, Marchand’s maturity has virtually accelerated, at least as far as his ID and those of his teammates stack up.

Granted, at age 26, he is still virtually tied with Milan Lucic for the eighth-oldest among presumptive regulars on Boston’s forward lines. But his seasoning in the league and the organization is immutably mounting by the year.

By this spring, Marchand will potentially join Patrice Bergeron, Gregory Campbell, David Krejci, Lucic and Daniel Paille among the forwards who have spent five start-to-finish seasons with Boston. (Chris Kelly split 2010-11 between the Senators and Bruins.)

The more the Bruins shed pieces from the first of those five seasons, namely the 2011 championship, the more all remainders need to act according to their pedigree.

For Marchand, that means joining Bergeron in helping black-and-gold seasoning rub off on whoever takes the second-line right-wing slot. That will most likely be Reilly Smith, a 23-year-old third-year pro and second-year Bruin, but only if the restricted free agent re-signs.

If it is somehow someone other than Smith, it will still be a player who is relatively new to the level, the organization or both.

Incidentally, and appropriately, DJ Bean of weei.com highlighted the RFA issue and picked up Marchand’s thoughts on the matter. After all, Marchand was in the same situation until he re-signed in time to start training camp ahead of his second full NHL season.

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 30: Matt Bartkowski #43, Reilly Smith #18 and Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins stand on the ice as the starting line up against the Montreal Canadiens at the TD Garden on January 30, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Ste
Steve Babineau/Getty Images

As quoted by Bean, Marchand said of Smith and defenseman Torey Krug’s status, “It’s tough. They want to be here and we’d love to have them here. I don’t know what’s happening with the negotiations, but it is a frustrating time for both sides.”

The fact that the press prompted him to recall his first post-entry-level renewal ought to reinforce Marchand’s realization of where he is now as opposed to then.

That was three years ago and three long years at that. Marchand is three years older than Smith and three expansive and eventful years at that.

He has cemented his expectations as a top-six striker, joined in on a run to another Stanley Cup Final and received a handsome pay raise. Per CapGeek, he imposed a $2.5 million cap hit through 2012-13 and then signed his current four-year pact with a $4.5 million hit.

He has since let those developments give way to a bevy of bumps. His repeat cold spells and unsavory sidebars have rightly brought his net worth into question with three years still to come on his contract.

The good angle for Marchand to take is that he has three quarters of that contract left to justify it with. He can do that by carrying out his fifth full season in Boston like somebody who has earned his quintessential highs and lows in the NHL.

He has given enough of a verbal indication of that precise objective. Now that he has accepted the inevitable magnet for scrutiny, the remaining test will start when the next time comes for him to don his mouthpiece.

That will be when his blades, his twig and his instincts have the floor, ready to show how much they have changed.

Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com.

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