Negotiations have been announced between the Brad Marchand camp and the Boston Bruins. This is great, Marchand is a big part of the team and the first major piece to come up for contract at a time where the puck was undoubtedly on Sweeney’s stick the whole time. The Loui Eriksson situation could arguably have been resolved prior to Sweeney taking the helm, but even that wasn’t as big a deal as Marchand.
Brad Marchand love him or hate him is a home grown talent taken in the third round who bootstrapped his way into the NHL and made himself a better player with the help of the coaches and training staff. More than that he’s effective at everything they ask of him, he scores, he defends well enough if he didn’t play with Bergeron he’d get Selke buzz, he has both speed and agility, he’s very strong for a player his size. He’s been remarkably durable, and it shows in the playoffs when he performs on the biggest stage in the hockey world.
I’m not sure how he gets overlooked so much, but heknow was an integral part of that Stanley Cup win. Despite playing a shut down roll against several of the top ten offenses of the year in that post season, he outscored every other winger on the roster. 11 goals is something even Patrick Kane hasn’t topped in the playoffs. That’s heady company to keep.
As importantly, the Marchand and Bergeron pairing has not only been a foundation of the team’s stability for half a decade, it has been highly productive. Claude Julien (or a successor) can point at those two and say; that’s the way good linemates work together, anticipating, covering each other, and never getting stale. Possibly even more important to a coach like Julien is their ability to carry seemingly any winger to at least an appearance of average competence. Best of all from his perspective is the knowledge he can put the two of them on the ice in any situation and know he’s made a smart choice.
Marchand will enter the season at 28 years old. The math on an eight year deal says he’d start the final season of the deal at 36 years old. He’s unlikely to be scoring 30+ goals that year, and even 25 is a bit difficult to credit. On the other hand a deal that long makes him less attractive to being grabbed in the expansion draft should he be unprotected. I can’t see him failing to hit 30 goals at least three times in the next five years, and will be surprised if one of the next two years isn’t a forty goal season.
For all he does on the ice, his lack of trouble making off the ice is nearly as important. He takes part in his share of community work, he is by all counts I’ve seen polite to fans. He’s given no real reason not to be resigned expeditiously. Another notable factor on Marchand is that he hasn’t had a contract dispute with the team before. That means by nearly any count the failure to get to a contract quickly falls into the lap of Don Sweeney and the rest of the Boston Bruins management team.
If Sweeney doesn’t get Marchand locked up quickly, and to at least a four year deal, he will likely be the first domino in chain of failure. Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak are due contracts next year, and Spooner is arbitration and offer sheet eligible, and let’s not forget that Alex Khoklachev has chosen to vacate the organization for what he deems management issues. When you add in a high percentage of college players who if they see the organization as unstable or hostile to players might choose “The Vesey Route” and hockey fans could be on the verge of witnessing a very messy meltdown.
Don Sweeney does not have the name recognition of his Tampa Bay counterpart, nor is Marchand quite as highly regarded. But his opposite number also doesn’t work in an environment quite as charged as the Boston market. Sweeney has more pressure from ownership, aging players, his former teammate and direct superior, fans, media, and probably his mom to win now two straight years of failure to make the playoffs even for the undoubtedly noble cause of building the team right, are considered too much. A third or fourth year would likely drop ticket and merchandise sales into the toilet. A Marchand-less roster is a lesser roster, and a resume generating event.