First off, congratulations to Brad Marchand, named the Boston Bruins captain for the 2023-24 season. He follows in the footsteps of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron as the 27th captain in Bruins history.
Now, to keep the metaphor going, some advice for Marchand: don’t stray from the path walked before you. Without the metaphor, it’s please don’t screw this up. To put it bluntly, don’t embarrass the franchise.
To truly represent the Boston Bruins franchise, Brad Marchand has to play within the lines
Marchand being selected as captain is a great story. A former third round pick with low expectations did the dirty work to make the team and developed into a star player. Now Marchand has been selected to lead the only team he has ever played for.
Marchand has a lot of qualities that will make him a great leader. Being 5-9 and playing into his 15th season reflects his toughness and durability. He won’t back down from anybody, showing courage and fearlessness. He’s a high IQ player with soft hands and plays in all situations.
Maybe the most desirable trait is the edge that Marchand plays with. It’s an attitude that makes opponents uncomfortable. Ideally, the rest of the team learns to play with a similar edge.
The concern is whether Marchand can control his edge and not cross the line into being dirty.
"“I have tried extremely hard over the last four years to get away from the reputation I’ve had. I think I’ve done an extremely good job of that.” – Brad Marchand following 2021 suspension for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larrson"
About a month ago, I stated that Charlie McAvoy should be the next Boston Bruins captain. McAvoy has quickly established himself as a reliable, go-to player for the Bruins. The idea of a player being captain for a long time, like Ray Bourque and Chara, was also appealing.
Playing hard, toughness, and being a physical tone-setter all factored into my thought process. But arguably, most importantly, McAvoy plays the right way. I’m confident McAvoy won’t cross that line.
Marchand, on the other hand, has crossed the line repeatedly. He’s been suspended eight times in his career, most recently in 2022 for sucker punching/high sticking Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry with less than :30 left in the game. It was absolutely uncalled for, yet Marchand took a shot at the unsuspecting Jarry.
The suspensions have taken a toll. Marchand has a reputation for going too far and it will affect the length of any suspension going forward.
Marchand is aware of this, and he admits he has tried to change. After being suspended for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson in 2021, Marchand said, “I have tried extremely hard over the last four years to get away from the reputation I’ve had. I think I’ve done an extremely good job of that.” Marchand needs to try harder.
I’m OK with Marchand being a player opponents don’t like to play against. But if Marchand succumbs to another emotional reaction and pays a price, the whole team suffers in his absence. As it has been said before, the most important ability is availability. Marchand would violate that maxim if the league comes down on him for another violation.
It’s not the kind of example a leader should be setting for a team, and certainly not a trait you’d want a team adopt.
Now it’s possible with the “C” on his sweater that Marchand finally matures and learns how to control himself. Sometimes more responsibility leads to equanimity. But being an alternate captain hasn’t made Marchand completely clean up his game.
The Boston Bruins announcing Marchand as captain motivated me to make a meme in case he does get suspended. The day the Bruins hold a press conference with Marchand apologizing for his actions, I’ll be ready.
I hope I never use it.