Bruins

Time for Marchand to clean up his act after NHL's latest warning

Time for Marchand to clean up his act after NHL's latest warning

BOSTON – The NHL is sending a clear message to Brad Marchand that it’s time to cut the crap. 

Marchand will begin serving the sixth suspension of his NHL career on Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators after being handed a five-game unpaid vacation for his elbow to the head of Marcus Johansson in Tuesday night’s win over the New Jersey Devils.

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In the video released by the NHL Department of Player Safety, it was clear they weren’t buying Marchand’s story that he was attempting to defend himself with Johansson approaching in his peripheral vision. Instead Marchand has now been suspended six times and hit with supplemental discipline a grand total of nine times over the course of an eventful seven-year All-Star career.  

“While we acknowledge Marchand’s argument that he is attempting to defend himself from incoming contact, it is Marchand that initiates the contact on this play,” said the NHL Player Safety Department narrator in the video of both Marchand and Johansson converging at the Jersey net prior to the B’s winger swinging his elbow. “This is not a defensive maneuver made for Marchand’s protection. Marchand lunges both up and into Johansson while swinging his elbow forward through Johansson’s head. This is an offensive, not a defensive maneuver, and cannot be excused as accidental or defensive contact.”

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It’s easy to be somewhat sympathetic to Marchand because he’s now a constant target for opponents trying to take him out, and he’s missed time twice this season already with concussion issues that followed heavy, nasty hits. Bruins teammates can’t jump to his aid to deter dangerous hits given the way referees liberally call the instigator penalty these days, and Marchand is always at a disadvantage as one of the smallest guys on the ice. 

So defending himself from big hits is one of the few things Marchand can do to discourage opponents attempting to hurt him, and the suspensions obviously put a limit on how vigorously No. 63 can put up defenses when in a vulnerable position. 

But Johansson isn’t a big hitter, and he clearly wasn’t going to clobber Marchand on the play in question. It was an unnecessary, reckless play from Marchand where he injured a player that’s struggled with concussions multiple times in his career. It looks like a cheap play with the Bruins lone All-Star candidate losing his self-control, and simply taking the open opportunity to throw an elbow in traffic that the on-ice referees completely missed as it happened. 

In this day and age the camera catches everything, however, and Marchand has run out of goodwill with the league after they overlooked his high hit on John Tavares earlier this season. Instead the NHL’s five game suspension serves as a line in the sand for Marchand, who is too good of a hockey player to continually lower himself with his wild actions. He didn’t need to throw an elbow to the head of Marcus Johansson to be a Hart Trophy candidate, and he didn’t need to spear Jake Dotchin in the nuggets last season to approach 40 goals scored. 

Those were the acts of a player sometimes more interested in getting even than the task at hand on the ice. 

Instead his suspension late last season cost him his chance at a 40-goal campaign, and endangered his team’s playoff chances before they eventually qualified anyway without him. Similarly this season’s five game suspension isn’t going to hurt a Bruins team that’s built up a significant playoff cushion with the way they’ve played over the last few months.

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But it leaves no misunderstanding that Marchand’s repeat offender status, chronic history of reckless behavior and his inability to simply play it straight is going to result in painful consequences if it continues. The NHL’s Player Safety Department doesn’t want to hear the excuses or the justifications for hurting other players, so it’s pretty obvious that next suspension for Marchand is going to be a long, painful one.     

Hopefully the message has been received with Marchand like it clearly hasn’t been in the past, and he suddenly realizes he can be good and dominant in a top line role without elbowing heads, spearing groins or low-bridging on-coming attackers. There is so much to admire about Marchand’s consistent hard work and his game-breaking ability on the ice. The Nose Face Killah has truly turned himself into a Hart Trophy candidate while forming the best line in the league with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, and his hockey team is again in a good spot after three years of struggle to get back there.

But that could all come crashing down for Marchand if he continues to run afoul with the league making selfish, reckless decisions that put everybody in jeopardy each time he makes them. 

Marchand finally needs to take that final step toward becoming the complete NHL player he was meant to be, and that means giving up the dirty tricks for the rest of his career. 

The NHL certainly appears poised to do it for him if Marchand can’t manage it on his own, and that’s bad news for everybody.  

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months. 

Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin. 

The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.

He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury. 

Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.

Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.

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Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

TORONTO – The Bruins are making more moves well ahead of the Monday trade deadline as they shipped injured winger Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick. 

The trade somewhat eases a crowded roster, essentially gives the B’s a replacement for the third-rounder they sent to the New York Rangers for Nick Holden earlier this week and gives them a solid return on an undrafted college hockey free agent that had fallen a bit this season on the B’s organizational depth chart.

Vatrano had two goals and a minus-3 rating in 25 games with the Bruins this season, but had typically been either a healthy scratch or strictly a bottom-six winger when he had been in the lineup this season. Vatrano, the East Longmeadow, Mass., native who turns 24 next month, had fallen behind Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on the depth chart as two of the aforementioned three had locked down top-nine roles.

In that respect, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear Vatrano getting moved as he’d hit a wall in his development with the Bruins after scoring 20 goals in his first 108 career NHL games and lighting up the AHL as a goal-per-game player. Now, Vatrano will get a chance to rekindle that goal-scoring ability with the Panthers and prove that he’s more than the one-dimensional player he appeared to be in three seasons with the B’s.

There was some thinking Vatrano might have served as a trade asset to be utilized in one of the potential deals that the Bruins have cooking for a rental wingers Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash or Thomas Vanek. Instead, general manager Don Sweeney scoops up a solid draft pick asset for a player that was sitting on the bench for the Black and Gold. That's a solid piece of asset management in a trade deadline period that so far is going very well for the GM.

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