At this point the NHL’s Department of Player Safety should probably have a conference room named after Brad Marchand given the amount of time they spent on conference calls with him.
He is set to be suspended yet again following his outburst late in the Boston Bruins’ 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night. Marchand was given a match penalty for intent to injure Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, punching him in the side of the head and then smacking him with his stick as he was being escorted off the ice by an official. It completed a bizarre night for Marchand who had a much weirder (and, if we are being honest, much funnier) interaction with Jarry earlier in the game.
The DoPS announced that Marchand will have a Wednesday night hearing (via teleconference), which allows for a suspension of more than five games. While nothing is a guarantee, the DoPS typically goes above the five-game mark when an in-person hearing is offered. Otherwise, they simply would not offer it. That means Marchand is facing a potentially lengthy suspension and could leave the Bruins without two thirds of their top line for the next few games after Patrice Bergeron was injured on Tuesday night.
Marchand’s history is going to be what potentially works against him here, even more so than what he actually did. There are two things that really escalate NHL suspensions: The first is whether or not the person on the receiving end of the play was injured (not the case here). The second is the offending player’s track record.
This will be the 10th time that Marchand has been disciplined by the DoPSy since it was introduced at the start of the 2011-12 season. This will be his seventh suspension (and second this season, following a three-game slew-footing suspension in November) during that stretch to go with three different fines.
Add in a two-game suspension during the 2010-11 season (prior to the DoPS) and it will be the 11th time he has been disciplined by the league (and eighth suspension) in his career.
That is a lot.
Just limiting things to the DoPS era, no player has been disciplined more times than Marchand, and he has a commanding lead over the rest of the field in that regard.
Zac Rinaldo and Tom Wilson currently hold the second place spot with seven suspensions/fines each. The only other players to be disciplined more than four times are Nazem Kadri (six times), Raffi Torres (five times), and Gabriel Landeskog (five times).
Here is the thing about that: For whatever criticisms you want to lob at the DoPS, they do have a tendency to hit repeat offenders the hardest. And repeat offenders typically reach a point where they get the proverbial book thrown at them.
Rinaldo’s fifth suspension eventually escalated to eight games.
When Raffi Torres could not stop launching himself at opponent’s heads they literally banned him for half of a season.
Wilson received a 20-game suspension for repeated head shots in a short period of time, and even his most recent suspension (for boarding) was a very significant seven-game suspension.
Kadri was suspended for eight playoff games (an especially harsh punishment given how much heavier the DoPS weighs playoff games versus regular season games) this past season. Given the playoff-to-regular-season exchange rate that is probably the equivalent of a 12-15 game regular season suspension.
Marchand, to this point, has been able to avoid that mega-suspension. Of his seven prior suspensions none of them have been longer than five games, and even his most recent suspension this season was two games shorter than the prior suspension. That has happened two other times in his career, where his latest suspension actually decreased in games from his prior one. That is not typically how these things work based on other players around the league. Repeat offenders like Torres, WIlson, Kadri have all seen their suspensions steadily increase in games with each infraction.
One possibility for why that may not be the case for Marchand is that the other players all tend to repeat the same infractions (typically head shots). Marchand, though, has been suspended for multiple different offenses. Slew-footing (two suspensions and a fine), “dangerous trip” (one fine), cross-checking (one fine), elbowing (two suspensions), spearing (one suspension), clipping (two suspensions), and roughing (one suspension).
This presumed suspension will fall under the “roughing and high sticking” classification.
None of this even includes the time he had to be warned to stop licking people or face discipline for that.
He is a truly a renaissance man in this area.
The thing that gets frustrating here is the defense that always comes up that Marchand has to play this way because he is an agitator and “this is what he does.” He absolutely does not have to play this way. Marchand is, without hyperbole or exaggeration, one of the best, most talented, and productive hockey players in the world. If you were to start listing the best players in hockey right now you might only name 10, or maybe 15 players before you get to him. He is that good. He is an elite goal scorer. A fantastic play maker. A dominant defensive player. He is a game-changing penalty killer. Every season he is a legitimate MVP candidate.
All these antics do is hold him back and risk taking him out of the lineup for an extended period of time when the Bruins absolutely cannot afford that. With each passing offense the risk of a more significant suspension becomes greater and greater. Maybe this will be the time. That does not make the Bruins — already a top-heavy team that depends almost entirely on his line for offense — better.