It’s not hard to defend what Brad Marchand did Tuesday night. It’s impossible.
The Bruins’ elite left winger should know better, and he obviously does, the proof right there before his eyes, an ever-unfolding rap sheet that now lists a career total of eight suspensions, five fines, and some $1.4 million in forfeited wages.
Death. Taxes. And Marchand sent off by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety one more time to feel shame.
The shame thing may stick one day, though the end of death and taxes looks to be the better bet.
Marchand, the premier shorthanded goal scorer in today’s NHL, was pointed to the sideline badlands again Wednesday night, suspended six games for his pair of ugly smacks the night before on netminder Tristan Jarry in the closing seconds of the Bruins’ 4-2 loss to the Penguins.
It is the longest suspension in Marchand’s dotted history, and it comes only some 10 weeks after he was dinged three games for slew-footing Vancouver’s Oliver-Ekman Larsson. This is the first time the L’il Ball o’Hate has been suspended more than once in a season.
This, remember, from a guy who appeared to have his anger issues, shall we say, licked. But now Bad Brad has won out over Good Brad again, and the Bruins won’t have their No. 1 point producer back in the lineup until their Feb. 24 game in Seattle, the start of a six-game road trip.
Marchand has 33 shorthanded goals, as well as suspensions totaling 28 games. Granted, I’m not a big analytics guy, but his shorties-to-suspensions ratio is a bit troubling, as well as embarrassing for a franchise that has long professed playing the game the right way — with honor, dignity, and respect for opponents and rulebook (1).
Per footnote (1): Unless Marchand is having a bad night.
Worst of all — at least for those of us who can dismiss the pain of spitting away $1 million-plus in earnings — Marchand’s lack of impulse control is conduct detrimental to the team. Which, frankly, makes it all the harder to understand, because the 33-year-old winger is not only the team’s best player and most prolific scorer, he is also its No. 1 teammate booster. At least when he’s not going ‘round the bend.
No one in that room surpasses Marchand for flattery, for constantly downplaying or dismissing his own skills and performance, while underscoring what every other guy adds to the team. Sure, he’s often guilty of overhyping, but it’s a good guilt. He’s a man of remarkable largesse, at times depicting struggling young players or even veteran fourth-liner stocking stuffers as sure-shot MVP candidates.
Yet, in a startling flip of emotion and selfishness, something Bad Brad this way comes. Like Tuesday night, when he again hurt his team, one that now must spend two weeks trying to score with one arm tied behind its back by him.
For reasons only he can explain (perhaps at the morning skate Feb. 24?), Marchand blindsided Jarry with a gloved right hand to the side of the head as the goalie kneeled in the crease, focused on picking up a loose puck after the whistle. The shot floored Jarry like Sonny Liston slamming to the mat in Lewiston, Maine.
Then, just to get his extra $448,350 worth, Marchand slipped a linesman’s hold, reached out, and jabbed his stickblade into Jarry’s neck and chin area. It was a roughing-and-high-sticking daily disciplinary double.
Did his actions merit a six-game sendoff? Not close. Two games, max. But with his rap sheet, Marchand has surrendered himself to the mercy of the court, and frankly, the judges get all giddy when they see his name pop up on the docket.
In fact, these are the Bad Brad moments that make the Player Safety guys reach into the honor bar for the good stuff, as if they’re about to see the Northern Lights shimmer in the night sky across the entire Original 32 universe.
“Boys, he’s lit, make sure the vid is rolling and let’s pop the cork on that bottle of Moet Marchand!”
By the way, mighty poor job of restraining by the linesman, not to mention linemate David Pastrnak, who was right there as witness. Pastrnak has been around long enough that he should be able to spot that Jack Nicholson “Here’s Johnny!” lick of fire when it erupts in Marchand’s eye. Yikes, how about do a linemate a solid there and grab him by the collar?
General manager Don Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy know there’s truly no separating the Bad Brad from the Good Brad. Not now. Not ever. It’s who he is. Truth be told, they wouldn’t want him to change.
Bad is simply Good’s collateral damage, and the Bruins have learned to accept the cost.
Management, coaches, and teammates can implore him to be smarter, pick his spots, engage his rage the way one might set the DVD to record a favorite program. But clearly that’s not how it works.
Anger often lacks smarts, knows no boundaries, and my dime’s worth of psychoanalysis tells me it’s precisely that storm within Marchand, when channeled in positive ways, that has driven him these last 10-plus years to a point that he ranks No. 7 in the NHL in that time in points (764) and No. 4 in goal scoring (340). What else explains how, over the term of his career, he has been second only to Alex Ovechkin for goals by an NHL winger?
Moderate his emotions? Be more the Good than the Bad Brad? Give yourself a face-wash with the open palm of an old Teddy Green leather glove? Not going to happen.
The Good and Bad Brad are here to stay, with the cost periodically to be determined by the Department of Player Safety. That’s a poor, costly business plan, but one that Marchand can only blame on himself.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.