This very well could have been Brad Marchand’s last season with the Boston Bruins organization.
Drafted in the third round in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Marchand entered each of his training camps here in Boston as one of those players on the bubble for a full-time NHL roster spot. Set to be a restricted free-agent at the end of this 2010-11 NHL season–and with the plethora of potentials in the Bruins’ pipeline–Marchand entered this year almost as if it were a “make or break” season.
After spending one full season with the Bruins AHL affiliate, Providence Bruins in ’08-09, Marchand split his time between clubs in ’09-10. In 20 NHL games last season, Marchand put up just one point in Boston (1 assist) and 20 penalty minutes; and 13-19-32 totals in 34 games Providence.
What a difference an offseason can make…
Not only has Marchand now solidified himself as a young, versatile, and dynamic player on this Bruins’ team, but his name should soon be up there amongst the best rookies in the NHL, and some serious consideration as a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate.
When talking about this year’s rookie class, the first two draft picks — Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin — are immediately thought of. When asked about the probables for NHL’s rookie of the year this season, thus far: Carolina’s Jeff Skinner; San Jose’s Logan Couture; Anaheim’s Cam Fowler; Philadelphia’s Sergei Bobrovsky; and Chicago’s Corey Crawford are perhaps the top-5 front-runner for the award.
But what about Marchand?
Sure, his first-half of the season wasn’t as staggering as some of the previous mentioned. But let’s take a look at what No. 63 has accomplished thus far on the season, how he’s fared in the early stages of the second-half, and how he’s becoming a hometown favorite in Boston.
2010-11 season totals, among rookies:
Goals: 12 (T-6)
Points: 24 (8th)
Plus/Minus: Plus-21 (1st)
Shorthanded goals: 4 (1st in the NHL)
Having begun the season, and primarily played, on Boston’s “Merlot Line” with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, Marchand fit the role of the Bruins’ antagonist and pest to a T. Although short in stature, and generously listed at 5-foot-9, Marchand makes up in fortitude. His aggressive style has only merited him 24 PIM this season, but his chirping on the ice and extracurricular activities during play and after the whistle has resulted in drawing penalties; creating many man-advantage opportunities.
While logging fourth-line minutes, Marchand eventually became one of the team’s go-to guys on the penalty-kill with his quickness, hustle, and extra effort in every shift. He has the fourth-most shorthanded time on ice among B’s forwards (1:34 per game), and his plus-21 rating (second on the team) is indicative of his great two-way play in all three zones.
Fast forward to the second-half of this NHL season, Marchand’s new linemates–Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi–have quickly gelled into Boston’s top producing line. More often than not when skating alongside Bergeron, you’ll be asked to skate against the opposition’s best — instantly becoming a ‘shutdown line.’ But the trio have not only been doing their job in their own end and on the defensive side of the puck, but they’ve been turning the red goal-lamp more into a strobe light as of late since skating together.
In the last eight games (all with Bergeron and Recchi) Marchand has nine of his 24 points (six of his 12 goals) a plus-11 rating, and 16 shots on goal. Just yesterday in Colorado, No. 63 netted his NHL-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season, and earned his first four-point game (2 goals) of his career against the Avalanche.
As it stands right now, Marchand is a definitely a darkhorse to win this year’s Calder Trophy. Maybe some earned time on the power play may elevate his considerations even more?
But either way, if this trio remain together–as they should–Marchand is going to earn himself many considerations, not only here in the Hub, but nationally around the league.
The 22-year-old Marchand has morphed from a player who teetered between Providence (AHL) and Boston, to a player who is going nowhere anytime soon. A player who should be a shoo-in for this year’s Seventh Player Award, the impending restricted free-agent is going to make it nearly impossible for Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins’ Brass not to re-sign him with his successful, surprising, and justifiable Award-winning season.