BOSTON — Brad Marchand wants to continue to be an elite NHL winger, but he doesn’t want to do so at the expense of the organization.
Despite registering 17 points in just 12 playoff games this season, the Bruins winger’s lasting image from the 2017-18 season will be him sticking his tongue in the face of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan during the two teams’ second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series, which Tampa Bay ultimately won.
The licking incident earned Marchand a call from the league, a conversation which the NHL had no problems making public.
While the Bruins will now go back to the drawing board to see how they can take the next step as an up-and-coming organization, Marchand vowed Wednesday to spend more time taking a look in the mirror. The goal, he pledged, is to “cut the s—” out of his game.
“I think the biggest thing for me now is to really take a pretty hard look in the mirror and realize some of the things I’m doing have a much bigger consequences than I may ever think or believe will come of it,” Marchand said Wednesday at the Bruins’ breakup day. “I’ve always been an easygoing guy and there’s not a whole lot that fazes me at all.
“It’s kind of gotten to the point where, especially, the last thing I want to do is bring the embarrassment to my organization and my teammates that I did.”
In order to do that, Marchand must eliminate the silly stuff — like the licking, for starters. But it also means playing a cleaner brand of hockey. The Bruins need Marchand — one of the best forwards in hockey — on the ice as much as possible, meaning he can’t be taking silly penalties or, worse, making plays that can get him suspended (again).
“I think it’s different for the fact that it’s different when I kind of bring the heat down on myself, but when you start kind of bringing some heat to the team and organization and being a distraction, that’s when it kind of hits you a little bit harder,” Marchand said. “It’s tougher when you start to disappoint the team and everyone. That’s a bit of a wake-up call.”
“Well, obviously, the skill set is much different, so we can start there, but Brad certainly needs to grow up a little bit on his actions on the ice,” Bruins president Cam Neely said in April 2017 on 98.5 The Sports Hub after he was suspended two games. “Obviously, it’s been talked about, about walking that fine line and getting to it and not crossing. He’s got to do a better job of that.”
Since those comments, Marchand has been suspended once for five games and fined — and that all came before he started licking dudes on the ice.
But he insists this time will be different, and Marchand thinks these changes will make him an even more integral part of the Bruins’ leadership core.
“That’s kind of been something I’ve wanted to work on more in the last few years is work into that role, but I’ve gotta figure some s— out before that’s really gonna happen, to get to the next level where (Patrice Bergeron), (Zdeno Chara), (David Krejci) and (David Backes) are. I’ve got to get rid of that stuff. The next few years, I think my biggest thing, is kind of making the turnaround more on the character side of the things than my game.”
Marchand is going to have to put in the work, though. The great irony about his on-ice disposition is that Marchand usually is at his best when he’s right up against that arbitrary “line.” It’s hard to argue with the results, too. Marchand scored 34 goals in just 68 games this season. But if Marchand’s introspection leads to a slight drop-off in production, that’s a trade he’s willing to make.
“Even if I drop to 25 (goals), but I cut the s— out, it’s worth it,” he said.
Skepticism is warranted, as Marchand has long since lost the benefit of the doubt, meaning we’ll have to see it to believe it.
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