Boston Bruins

Getty

Why Brad Marchand is NHL’s most frustrating player

19 Comments

There are 30 general managers in the NHL outside of Boston that, if given the opportunity, would be willing to pay a king’s ransom to acquire Brad Marchand.

There is nothing that he does not do well, and over the past three or four seasons has rapidly developed into one of the most impactful players in the NHL.

The list of players in the league that are better than him at this moment is a short one, and it seems to get shorter every year.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season his 97 goals are tied for the third most in the league, while his 0.50 goals per game average is tied for second in the league (with Auston Matthews and behind only Alex Ovechkin). His 196 total points are the seventh most, while he is one of just six players in the league that have averaged more than a point-per-game over that stretch. His 57.5 percent Corsi rating is second best in the league. He is a crucial part of what has become the best, most dominant line in hockey — alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak — for what is now one of the best teams in the league and at a salary cap hit of $6.125 million per season is probably still one of the best bargains in the league given what he produces.

That’s what makes his other antics, the ones that keep getting him called into the principal’s office for supplemental discipline so often you would think they were serving peanut butter cups and Yoo-Hoo in there, so damn frustrating.

[Marchand suspended five games for elbowing]

On Wednesday Marchand was suspended five games for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson in the head. Johansson suffered a concussion on the play (his second of the season) and is sidelined indefinitely.

Instead of being consistently regarded as one of the league’s best players — which he is! — Marchand’s reputation is still that of a pest, or an agitator, or, if you prefer, just simply a dirty player.

What is worse than the fact that the latter part of the criticism is absolutely true, is that he doesn’t seem to be willing to change. Or Learn.

If he is willing to change or learn, he hasn’t actually done it.

Marchand is no stranger to the folks at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety and it’s not uncommon for him to be called in at least once or twice per season. That is not an exaggeration, either.

Since the DoPS was formed before the 2011-12 season Marchand has been fined or suspended by the department eight different times. That is more than any other player in the NHL during that stretch, while the only players in the league to be punished more than four times are Zac Rinaldo (seven times) and Raffi Torres (five times).

That is not a group of players you want to be included with in any context.

(Just a quick note on all of that: I am only looking at punishments handled by the Department of Player Safety. So it does not include the suspension Marchand received during the 2010-11 season — meaning he has actually been fined or suspended nine times in his career — and I did not include punishments handled by NHL operations — so players suspended or fined for PEDs, comments or criticisms, or diving or embellishment are not included in the tallies.)

It has cost him 17 games in suspensions and close to $714,000 in forfeited salary.

It also does not include the incidents that did not result in supplemental discipline from the league but certainly drew attention — like the late hit on John Tavares earlier this season that resulted in a five-minute major for interference, or the dangerous trip on Anton Stralman last season, which came one week after he was fined for a different dangerous trip on Niklas Kronwall, which came after he was warned earlier that season for slew-footing.

The point here is that no matter what he does, or no matter what the league does to him, he still comes back and does the same stuff that keeps getting him in trouble. Again and again and again and again and again.

And again.

On Thursday Marchand apologized for letting his teammates and organization down, while also briefly mentioning that he hopes that Johansson has a quick recovery for the concussion that he inflicted on him.

If those words sounds familiar it might be because we’ve heard similar sentiments from Marchand in the past.

Back in November Marchand talked about how his game has changed, mostly due to the changing style of play in the league, but also because being a legitimately good hockey player tends to lead to a longer career than just being a pest.

Here he is, via the Toronto Star:

“I’m trying to get away from the s— a little bit, and I have, just because they crack down on it so easily now and I can’t afford to get suspended. … There are very few guys on any team that even get into anything. These kids that come up now, they’re all skill players, they don’t get into it. There’s no fighters anymore.”

Here he is apologizing for getting suspended just before the 2016 Winter Classic for clipping Mark Borowiecki. It is a combination of words that looks very similar to the ones he said on Thursday.

“I just want to acknowledge the situation that I put my teammates in and affecting the game for them, and taking away for the excitement for the fans being a part of this rivalry and taking it away from them, and also affecting this game for myself and putting myself in the situation to not be a part of this. So I want to apologize, and I truly am sorry to everyone about, again, the situation. And it was not my intent to make a hit or try to injure anyone on that play.”

That, by the way, was the second time Marchand had been suspended for clipping. In the DoPS era only one other player in the entire league has been suspended or fined for that infraction. He has been suspended for it twice.

He has also been suspended or fined three other times since that incident not even two years ago, including his most recent five-game ban.

It is frustrating. It is infuriating. It is exhausting.

It is all of that because it does not need to be this way. Not that there is ever a valid excuse for a player to do the things that Marchand so often does, but it is not like he is player that has to play on the edge to survive in the NHL or keep his job.

He is not just an energy guy or someone that is paid to rattle the cage of an opponent.

He is a top-line player. There is legitimate argument to be made that he has been one of the 10 best players in the league for a couple of years now. He is an All-Star for crying out loud.

The thing that has to be a concern for the Bruins is that he is probably only one infraction away from really getting hammered by the league.

It is kind of amazing that it has not already happened given what has happened to some other players with similar histories. And even that isn’t entirely fair because few players in the league actually have  a history that compares Marchand’s.

His five-game ban is the third-longest suspension handed out this season.

Rinaldo was hit with a six-game ban for punching an unsuspecting player (a punishment that received vast criticism for being far too light), while Radko Gudas, another player with a pretty extensive history, was given 10 games for slashing Mathieu Perreault.

Habitual repeat offender Raffi Torres finally did so many awful things that the NHL suspended him for half of a season. It predates the DoPS era, but the league became so fed up with Matt Cooke playing in the gutter that they hit him with a 10-game regular season ban plus the first-round of the playoffs (which ended up being seven more games) for elbowing Ryan McDonagh.

You have to wonder if that day of reckoning is just around the corner for Marchand.

When the DoPS handles suspensions or fines the first thing they do, even before looking at a player’s history, is determine whether or not the incident is worthy of supplemental discipline.

When the answer to that question is yes, that is when the history comes into play.

At this point Marchand’s apologies and proclamations that he has changed are empty.

They mean nothing because he keeps doing it and it’s not doing him, his teammates, and most importantly, the players on the other side of the ice that he constantly puts at risk any favors.

He is one of the best players in the league.

He is also by far the most frustrating.

It is act that is getting old and somebody, whether it is the Bruins or the NHL, needs to put a stop to it.

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Marc Savard ready to take coaching experience to the next level

Getty Images
3 Comments

It’s been seven years since Marc Savard last suited up as a player, but as he continues his recovery from concussions that ended his career he’s kept one regular routine from his playing days.

“Not so much a set schedule, still a set nap. An hour and a half, two-hour nap at 12 o’clock — so I’ve kept that schedule alive,” Savard told Pro Hockey Talk on Wednesday.

Savard officially announced his retirement this week following an 807-game NHL career with the New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Boston Bruins. He finished with 207 goals, 706 points and one Stanley Cup ring. A second concussion in less than a year forced him to miss the Bruins’ 2011 championship run, but the team successfully petitioned to have his name engraved on the trophy.

Health-wise, Savard is doing great. “It’s the best it’s been in a long time,” he said. He’s staying active and keeping his mind occupied while spending plenty of time with his family.

Part of what’s keeping Savard busy these days is coaching minor hockey in Peterborough, Ont. The experience behind the bench teaching kids, including his youngest son, Tyler, has inspired him to want to move up the ranks and into junior hockey.

“I’d like to coach in the [Ontario Hockey League] or maybe move up at some point,” he said. “My real focus is the younger generation. Been doing a lot of AAA hockey here in Peterborough. We have the OHL Petes. I played for the [Oshawa] Generals. I would look into doing something like that to move my career forward. Right now, I’ve been doing the kids hockey and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun. I love giving back and it’s been great.”

To find the biggest influence on Savard’s coaching spirit, you have to go back to his days with the Thrashers. Two months after he was dealt from Calgary to Atlanta, the team hired Bob Hartley as their new head coach. Fifteen years later, Savard still remembers Hartley’s impact.

“He really gave me the opportunity to be the best I could be,” Savard said. “The first day he came in we had a meeting and he told me flat out that he was going to give me a great opportunity. Everything worked out excellent from there and I owe a lot to him.”

Hartley knew, even when he was coaching in Colorado, what kind of player Savard could be. In Atlanta, the head coach unlocked that potential, which helped Savard’s offensive game in his final season with the Thrashers and first year in Boston where he posted 97 and 96 points, respectively.

“He gave me 20 minutes-plus ice time every night and he really stayed on me and made me believe in myself like I had before the down times in Calgary,” Savard said. “He was very supportive and made me really realize how good I can be.”

Those lessons Hartley taught on the ice in Atlanta stayed with Savard as he entered the youth coaching world. He remembered the importance of communication; how there are numerous personalities to manage and how to find out the right buttons to push in order to get a player going. For example, Savard recalled Hartley being tough on Ilya Kovalchuk to improve his defensive game, while later showering him with praise after every goal.

“It was really something to see and something that I’ve taken,” he said.

Savard is a regular hockey watcher on television, especially when it comes to the Bruins. And now that he’s wearing a coaching whistle and track suit, you’ll often find him jotting down notes during games, picking out certain aspects of a power play or penalty kill that he liked.

“That’s just having an eye and trying to pick up little things here and there,” he said. “I’m always watching for things, trying to learn. Every day you could learn something, we all know that.”

What does the future hold for Savard and could it involve an NHL return in a coaching capacity? He’s not thinking that far ahead and is just enjoying the moment.

“We’ll see where this road takes me, but right now I’m really focused on the OHL or doing something with the younger age just to get some reps in and get used to being behind the bench a little more,” he said.

“I’m not going to put any limits on anything as I did as a player, so we’ll see what’s down the road.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Bruins anthem singer Rene Rancourt and his fist pumps to retire after this season

Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
4 Comments

For over 40 years, the Boston Bruins have featured Rene Rancourt as their anthem singer. On Wednesday, the team announced that the colorful crooner will be hanging up his microphone after this season.

The 78-year-old Rancourt, a trained opera singer, actually began his anthem singing career performing before Boston Red Sox games. He was brought on board by the Bruins after a performance prior to Game 6 of the 1975 World Series — The Carlton Fisk Homerun Game — when he subbed in for Kate Smith.

“I knew practically nothing about hockey,” Rancourt told Joshua Kloke of Vice Sports in 2016. “I didn’t even know where the Boston Garden was.”

Quite the character, Rancourt quickly became a staple before games and over time became known for his fist pumps, which energize crowds nightly, and his salute. The fist pumps were inspired by former Bruin Randy Burridge’s “stump pump” celebration after goals.

If you were lucky, the wedding or other event you were attending would be interrupted by Rancourt’s appearance to belt out a couple of tunes. It was also an annual tradition to see him sing Christmas carols during Bruins games every December.

Rancourt will be honored during the Bruins’ final regular season game on April 8. It will be interesting to see how many fist pumps his pulls off during his last appearance at TD Garden, whenever that may happen this spring.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Tavares gets back to scoring ways

Getty Images

Players of the Night: 

Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche: Bernier made quite the save on Ryan Kesler, using his paddle to stop a backhand shot after sprawling across his crease in an attempt of desperation. He also stopped 33 pucks and won his sixth straight game in the process.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones made 29 out of 30 saves in the second and third periods in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. His 35-save effort was a nice rebound after allowing three goals on six shots and getting yanked on Saturday.

John Tavares, New York Islanders: Tavares scored a shorty in regulation on an unassisted breakaway and then the game-winner in overtime to lead the Isles past the Habs in Montreal.

Highlights of the Night:

Tyler Seguin provided some matinee magic with this overtime winner in Boston. What a goal:

Bernier made this incredible paddle save on a poor Ryan Kesler:

MISC:

Scores:

Stars 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

Avalanche 3, Ducks 1

Sharks 4, Kings 1

Islanders 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Canadiens’ Phillip Danault takes slap shot to head

AP Photo
8 Comments

On-ice moments don’t get much scarier than what happened at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday.

Late in the second period in a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the visiting Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara took a one-timer from the point that got high in a hurry and caught Canadiens forward Phillip Danault in the side of the head.

Danault laid on the ice for several minutes before a stretcher made its way out onto the ice.

Players on both teams, refs and fans stood nearly silent as the Canadiens trainers worked with Danault.

Pucks traveling at high speeds are inherently dangerous, but that doesn’t make plays like this any less difficult to watch.

Nobody knows the velocity of Chara’s shot better than the man himself. And Chara looked devastated by what laid in from of him.

Chara stood by Danault throughout the whole ordeal, and when they got him up on the stretcher and ready to wheel him out, Chara kneeled down and said some words to the Canadiens forward.

UPDATE: The Canadiens tweeted out that Danault has been taken to the hospital due to a head injury. They say he’s moving and awake.

Refs stopped the game with 1:37 left in the period, sending both teams to their respective rooms for an early intermission and resumed the game following the break with 1:37 left.

UPDATE: According to the Canadiens, Danault is at home resting after being released from hospital.

Here’s what Chara had to say after the game:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck