By: Scott Wood | Follow me on Twitter @ScottHoHPodcast
I understand that I will not endear myself to many fans with this post. After the antics against the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry a week-and-a-half ago, it wasn’t only the fans of the Bruins rivals that condoned Marchand’s actions. Bruins fans argued as well, many stating that the Bruins superstar should be facing a suspension of 10 games or greater. The prevailing sentiment: What Brad Marchand did was stupid.
To clarify before we go any further: What Brad Marchand did was stupid. It’s a bad look. If a player like Garnett Hathaway was treating Jeremy Swayman the way Marchand went after Jarry, I’d be screaming at my television and calling for someone on the Bruins to make him eat his teeth.
Marchand was suspended six games for his actions and has since appealed that suspension and had his appeal heard on Wednesday. At the time of writing this, we have yet to hear any resolution from his meeting with Commissioner Gary Bettman, where he pleaded his case to have his suspension reduced. It should never have been six games in the first place.
Marchand was emotional after seeing his captain leave the ice with what many suspected was a concussion, being down late in the game despite the first period that the Bruins dominated, seeing Jarry swing his stick into the midsection of teammate Charlie Coyle, and being unable to score on a rebound chance with 45 seconds left to play in the third.
He was being an agitator and rat, but what he wasn’t doing was attempting to injure anyone. The Department of Player Safety should be primarily focused on player safety, and no one in this instance was facing any real threat of harm.
However, it’s not the suspension that has me upset nearly as much as the lack of support he received from coach Cassidy and General Manager Don Sweeney in the press. Brad Marchand is not some lunk like (say) Michal Grosek back in the day. He’s the Bruins’ top forward and one of the best in the NHL. He’s the engine that drives this team with his skill, his fearlessness, and the very emotion he displayed in that frustrating loss to the Penguins.
Cassidy, after the game, said that Marchand “needs to control his emotions in that situation.” Don Sweeney, in his State of the Bruins press conference, remarked that “the damage has been done. We have to move forward. Hopefully, he can.”
In contrast, when Mark Scheifele hit Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans in the playoffs after Evans scored on an empty net in Game One, coach Paul Maurice defended his star center, saying, “For me, the feet are on the ice, the arms are tucked in, and it’s a body contact… It was a heavy, heavy hit for sure, but it was clean. So it’s part of the game, and I don’t even like that phrase but depending, as you said, what flag’s on the car, you have a different opinion on that. But their guy took a hit to make a play. Our guy made a hit. It won them the game. Move on.”
When then Vegas Golden Knight Ryan Reaves went after Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves on the losing end of a 7-1 blowout, coach Peter DeBoer had no problem defending his player after the game.
“He’s consistently a clean, physical player,” Maurice said about Reaves. “As far as the incident that’s in Player Safety. I do know a couple of things: His gloves never came off, and no one was hurt on the play. Whether they’re going to look at what’s between the lines and think there’s something there that maybe I don’t see, that’s their department, not mine.”
What we need from Cassidy and Bruins management in this type of situation is something like this:
“Yeah, Brad’s emotional. He’s frustrated. We’re losing a game that, at one point, we felt we were in control of. Can he channel that emotion better? Absolutely. But that fire is something we could use from the other 18 guys on the ice, and we’re not seeing it consistently enough. No one was hurt on the play, and I trust the Department of Player Safety to take that into account when they assess his penalty.”
It shouldn’t be so difficult to defend any player on your team, let alone your alternate captain, your leading scorer, and arguably your best player. That support needs to come not only from Bruins management but also from Marchand’s own fans and fans of the Boston Bruins. After witnessing the listless, passionless loss to the Islanders on Thursday night (not by any means their first this season), one doesn’t have to drive far to make the connection from Cassidy’s plea for Marchand to check his emotions to the Bruins’ uncanny ability to refuse to display any.
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