Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand: Hero to Zero?

Stanley Cup Hero and RFA, Brad Marchand, has not signed a new contract with the Boston Bruins with only 2 days left before start of training camp. I have to admit I am a Bruins fan, so I figure if I spend the time to write this article perhaps I will be pleasantly annoyed at my waste of time because Marchand will sign just as soon as I finish writing. I agree there is ‘some madness to my intentions’.

Marchand in 77 regular season games had 21 goals, 20 assists for 41 points; was a plus 25; took 149 shots; and, had a 14.1% scoring percentage. He played with enough skill, grit, and defensive acumen to be promoted from the fourth line to be a regular on the second unit. He proved to be an excellent penalty killer and although he did have a tendency to cross the line he filled an important role as agitator supreme.

Continuing this style of play Marchand had a breakout playoff. Marchand had 11 goals, 8 assists, 19 points. He was a plus 12; took 61 shots; and, had a scoring percent of 18.0%. Marchand was an integral part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup Championship not only for his offence and defence but also for his aggressive style that seemed to completely throw the Vancouver Canucks off their games. I am sure Daniel Sedin wakes up from his post Stanley Cup nightmares with a sore neck from jerking his head repeatedly. All of this came in his rookie season at 23 years young.

Marchand’s playoff points project through a full season to 36 goals, 26 assists. Perhaps 36 goals is a stretch but a 30 goal season is not out of the question in the near future. However with his current non-contractual status and being represented by Wade Arnott (the same agent as Phil Kessel) Bruins fans cannot help but to think that Brad Marchand’s actual contributions to the Boston Bruins’ defence of the Stanley Cup for the 2011–2012 season may be Zero.

There is speculation Chiarelli is shopping Marchand. I am not surprised or upset by this. Chiarelli is doing his job. Don’t get me wrong, having Marchand back with the Bruins is my first choice. But we are dealing with Arnott here. No one can tell me that Phil Kessel has not once, since June 15 wished he had a different agent. When will Toronto win a Cup? When will Toronto make the playoffs? Marchand may soon have the same regret. Chiarelli cannot give in to unreasonable demands from Arnott. Chiarelli has to manage the big picture. Only by maintaining a reasonable internal equity of players’ salaries can he hope to maintain the majority of these players over the long run. There are other future UFAs and RFAs to consider within the salary cap future. Chiarelli did an excellent job parlaying Kessel into some excellent futures. I am sure he can do the same with a hot commodity like Marchand.

The question for Chiarelli (and fans) is where to get the best deal. The fans and reporters in Toronto are drooling but it would not make sense to do another deal with the Leafs. But before we get into the ‘who to trade with’, let’s think about what the Bruins should expect to get from a Marchand trade. All Bruins fans know the unique skill set of Brad Marchand and so does every General Manager in the NHL. No need to repeat his accomplishments and potential. I would want as a minimum a top five first round draft choice / plus a prospect for Marchand. I know Chiarelli is much better at this than I am and I trust he will maximize this asset.

With Marchand’s ability Boston would be foolish to strengthen any of the other Eastern Conference top ten teams. Also they would not have a top five first round pick. So Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, New York Rangers, Buffalo, Montreal, Carolina, Toronto and New Jersey do not call. Winnipeg, New York Islanders, Florida or Ottawa may have the desired first round pick and recent high level prospects. Each has a ‘but’: Ottawa is in the same division and Marchand will have a long career; Winnipeg is not far away from being very competitive but they will be transferring to the Western Conference next year; Florida and the Islanders management / ownership is too unstable (they may end up flipping Marchand to an Eastern competitor). Winnipeg is the only reasonable trade partner only because they are moving to the West. So it makes sense to trade Marchand to a western team.

In the Western Conference, obviously, Vancouver is not a viable trade partner. As well the other top teams (San Jose, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Nashville, Minnesota) may see Marchand as ‘Sedin kryptonite’ but the Bruins would not want to strengthen a potential Stanley Cup opponent. Of the other teams(Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado, Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Columbus) Vancouver’s North West Division rivals would have the most demand for ‘Sedin kryptonite’ since they have to play the Canucks 6 times during the regular season. As well Colorado, Edmonton, and Calgary will have the most potential to pick in the top 5 next year having finished 30th, 28th, and 23rd respectively last year. These 3 teams meet the Bruins criteria best for supply of high draft choices / prospects and demand for Marchand. As 3 divisional rivals this may also leverage competitive negotiating in favour of the Bruins. Whatever the trade it will probably be for future assets rather than an immediate top six forward.

So if the Bruins cannot sign Marchand and trade him who plays with Bergeron and potentially Seguin on the second line. We would have to see who Chiarelli gets back in the trade. Time for Bruins fans to scour the rosters of the aforementioned 3 teams to discuss some possibilities. Internally Pouliot, Peverley, or perhaps  one of the kids may fill the void.

So it remains to be seen, will Marchand again be a Bruin Hero or become a Bruin Zero in 2011-2012? Before Marchand regretfully lets Arnott lead him out of Boston to a non-contender he may want to think of Kessel. Either way Bruins fans should be confident in Chiarelli doing what is best for the team.  

Update: This article was posted late morning. By late afternoon the same day it was announced Marchand had signed a 2-year, $5 million contract. I am pleasantly annoyed with my 'intentional madness'. Bottom line: Hero to Hero.

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