When Boston Bruins rookie standout Brad Marchand was honored with NESN’s 7th Player Award on Saturday afternoon, it quickly brought back memories of his game-changing AHL days that led to his well-deserved promotion.
As just a first-year pro in 2008-09, the agitating winger burst onto the professional scene with 18 goals and 59 points in an ironman-like 79 regular-season games for Providence, followed by point-per-game play in 16 postseason outings and enough verbal jabs to make him one of the most hated players in the league’s Atlantic Division.
In his sophomore season, injuries limited Marchand to just 34 AHL contests, during which he still managed 13 goals and 32 points. Injuries, however, weren’t the only catalyst to a short stint in Rhode Island. The then-21-year-old also enjoyed his first NHL experience, earning 20 games in Boston and a mere one assist before watching the playoffs from the press level.
My, how times have changed.
Marchand was voted by the fans as the team’s 7th Player for going above and beyond the call of duty and exceeding the expectations of Bruins fans over the course of this season.
Is that because of his role early in the year on the Merlot line?
His ability to get under the skin of the opposition?
What about his unlikely offensive production (21 goals, 41 points, plus-25 rating in 74 games)?
His golf swing?
You know the answer by now.
The only irony here is perhaps that this honor would likely have surprised most people back in training camp. Most people, however, didn’t get to watch Marchand grow in Providence the way P-Bruins head coach Rob Murray did.
“I’m glad for Marsh,” said Murray of the forward’s award. “He’s getting some recognition. He’s a good kid who works so hard all the time, and we used to talk about that last year. If I could get the effort that he puts in just in practice out of the majority of our team, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not going to lose too many games.”
If not for Marchand’s play, it’s fair to speculate that the distinction might have gone to defenseman Adam McQuaid, another product of seasoning down I-95. After all, that’s been the theme in recent years. Before Marchand, recipients of the 7th Player Award were Tuukka Rask in 2010 and David Krejci in 2009. Both wore the spoked-P under Murray’s watch before solidifying their spots in Boston.
“It’s nice to see our alumni go and make the jump to the NHL, and also make an impression and do well,” Murray said.
Maybe McQuaid’s turn will come next year — or Steve Kampfer‘s? It could be anyone, really, even someone who’s not on the roster right now. But, would it really surprise anyone if the next fan favorite once called the Dunkin’ Donuts Center home?
Not one bit.