By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Brad Marchand is no MVP.
I’ve been mildly lobbying in recent weeks for Marchand to at least garner some votes for the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP after his incredible offensive output, especially on his most recent hot streak (30 points, plus-11 in 25 games under Bruce Cassidy). But the dark underbelly of Marchand’s game unfortunately crept back in at the most inopportune of times, and his two-game suspension for spearing Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin is why he won’t have a chance to reach the 40-goal mark this season.
It’s also why Marchand may never get legitimate consideration for the Hart Trophy, or a captain’s “C,” or anything else that signifies a true leader or exemplary professional.
You’re probably already firing up your next scorching take about fellow offensive stud Sidney Crosby and how he recently gave the Sabres’ Ryan O’Reilly a similar shot to the crotch without getting so much as a minor penalty. There’s no question that Crosby also has these ratty tendencies and gets away with stuff that he doesn’t need to do. But he doesn’t do this stuff with nearly the same frequency or ferocity as Marchand. And Crosby also has accomplishments on his resume that Marchand does not, like two Olympic gold medals and a Conn Smythe trophy.
Crosby may be the beneficiary of a double-standard in the NHL league offices. He’s gotten away with some dirty, uncalled-for behavior. But he’s also led and captained his teams to championships. He’s earned his “C,” something Marchand may never do.
But this isn’t about comparing the two, which you may be inclined to do here. This is about Marchand’s latest suspension. It’s the fifth of his career and the eighth time he’s received supplemental discipline for dangerous, needlessly dirty tactics. No other player in the NHL with his level of offensive talent has as much red ink on his record.
And make no mistake, Marchand’s offensive talent is immense. He took another step forward this season, leaping from 61 points to 85 while setting a new career high in goals with 39. He had two games to become the first Bruin since Glen Murray in 2002-03 to hit 40 goals – but, if only for a fleeting moment, he felt that jabbing Jake Dotchin in the nether regions was more important.
Marchand called the spear a “reactionary play” after the game, implying that he simply can’t help himself in those moments. It’s not the kind of behavior you see – not on an embarrassingly consistent basis, anyway – from captains like Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Pavelski, Anze Kopitar, or Jamie Benn. Certainly not from Zdeno Chara, or the likely next-in-line for the Bruins captaincy, Patrice Bergeron.
Marchand is in the same class as those guys in terms of scoring ability, but not at all in terms of leadership. He had a chance to make that jump, but spoiled it all with one bafflingly selfish penalty. It’s the intangible qualities that truly earns players consideration for prestigious awards and distinctions like the captaincy. Instead of playing himself into that conversation, Marchand speared his way entirely out of it.
Still, Marchand has a chance to “redeem” himself if he comes out like a ball of fire in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and resumes his regularly scheduled sniping and playmaking. But can you feel in any way confident that he won’t impulsively ram his stick into another guy’s crotch? Or stick his leg out near another unsuspecting player’s foot? Or give another back body drop?
Marchand just reminded Bruins fans why you can’t feel comfortable that he will be on the ice every time the team needs him, unlike most leaders and superstars throughout the league. He also reminded everyone why he still has a long way to go to reach that level of respect.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.