TORONTO – Brad Marchand might not be “Brad Marchand” anymore.
There was a time his name carried an undeniable connotation. He was a pest. He was a injurious sneak. The President of the United States called him a “little ball of hate.” Not so much now, after 37 goals last season with the Boston Bruins and a starring role on Team Canada’s top line at the World Cup of Hockey.
“I think the pest role, the agitator role, has been pushed by the media more than anything,” Marchand said. “If you talk to my coaches, and the way I view it, is trying to be a player more than being that. It’s been that way for a while now. The pest role was what got me in the league, got me here, and now it’s about improving and being a better player.”
Marchand, a left wing, has three goals and two assists in the World Cup of Hockey, scoring twice in Canada’s 5-3 semifinal win over Russia that propelled them to the best-of-three championship round next week. His linemates are Patrice Bergeron, with whom he plays in Boston, and Sidney Crosby, who is leading the tournament with seven points in four games and the best player in the world at this moment.
“I think all three of us work hard to gain possession to create turnovers. He does that really well,” said Crosby of Marchand. “He’s got a great shot. He’s got speed, a lot of different things. But I think just the way he competes every shift, you know that he’s able to generate a lot sometimes from nothing.”
The respect runs both ways, as Marchand praised Crosby’s work in setting up his two goals – including a defensive play in the attacking zone that led to a Russian turnover and Marchand’s first tally, 72 seconds after Russia scored.
“Yeah, I think that’s one thing that makes him such a good player is his determination and he always comes up big in the big games,” he said. “You see plays like that, that’s where the leadership comes in. And when you’re able to lead at this level, of a group of leaders, then you’re able to take control, that just shows how special of a player he is and he created that whole goal and ultimately, that did lead to turning the game around.”
So it seems like these two guys are having fun, and why not? They’ve close in age (one year apart) and they train together in Nova Scotia during the summer. Crosby expressed excitement that Marchand was joining Team Canada. And Marchand knew from the start that he and Crosby clicked.
“I think we kind of were able to see that a bit in a game in the summertime. He’s obviously an incredible player and he’s very easy to play with. It’s definitely been nice to play with him,” he said.
Alright, the elephant in the room: Marchand becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Chris Kunitz, Crosby’s long-time winger who now plays down the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins, comes off their cap after this season ($3.85 million) but Pittsburgh isn’t exactly swimming in cap space. It’s hard to imagine the Penguins would add another high-priced forward, or that Marchand wouldn’t break the bank in money and term as a free agent, but …
… is an NHL reunion between these instant-chemistry linemates out of the realm of possibility?
The question asked of Marchand: Does a very tiny part of you sit there and say maybe I should wait until next Sumner and see if a certain team in Pennsylvania might be interested in signing me?
“That’s a long ways away, but there’s a championship games here, we got to think about that first. But we’ll deal with whatever needs to be dealt with down the road,” said Marchand.
“But it’s a lot of fun playing with Sid, there’s no question about that. But for now, we’ll keep that to here.”
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