It's rare for an NHL player in today's game to be both an elite talent and a deplorable rat. You just don't see it anymore. If you're potting 30 goals in your sleep, you're not running players into the boards from behind, and vice versa. You're either Vladimir Tarasenko or you're Tom Wilson. You're never both.
And then there's Brad Marchand.
It wasn't too long ago that Marchand was primarily a rat. Between January 2012 and December 2015, he was suspended three times—twice for clipping and once for slew-footing—for a total of ten games. He was always the kind of player who could score 20 goals but had the potential to be more than that if he'd just stop illegally cutting out people's legs.
And he apparently got that message. Last year, he had 37 goals in 77 games. This year, he is on pace to reach 33 goals. He has become one of the league's more consistently dangerous scorers over the past two years, and he's fun to watch, too.
Even better, Marchand is happy to use his newfound star status to be a voice for LGBTQ rights. When he was hit with a homophobic slur on Twitter, he called the person out and even spoke with the media about it. You're telling me this guy is a Stanley Cup champion who can drill home 30 goals a season and is willing to put himself out there on issues that can upset the people who help pay his salary?
Where did this Marchand come from? How do we make more of him?
Yet as of about a week ago, it seems like Marchand woke up one morning and said to himself, "People are starting to like me too much. How can I remind people of my capability for being a dick?"
Last Tuesday, for no discernible reason, Marchand kicked out the leg of an unsuspecting Niklas Kronwall. There was no penalty on the play and the NHL chose not to suspend Marchand, instead fining him $10,000 for a "dangerous trip." It seems like the Boston Bruins winger got off light, but hey, he's turned a corner the past two seasons. He's a star now, getting the star treatment. Maybe this was a one-time relapse.
One week later, Marchand did THE EXACT SAME THING to Anton Stralman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and again was not penalized. Does he hide it a little better this time? Sure. He clearly knows what he's doing. Like anyone who gets away with a crime, he's refined his technique to make it harder for authorities to detect and punish. But it's still obvious.
Luckily for the rest of the NHL, Marchand's been busted for things like this throughout his career, so the league's Department of Player Safety came down hard on Marchand by … what's that? Nothing? They literally gave him zero punishment for doing the same thing he did a week earlier? Come on.
Doesn't the NHL have ex-players on the payroll for things like this? A player will say it was an accident and you have some dirty ex-player like Chris Pronger there to say, "Yeah right, buddy. You're getting three games for this." Yet DOPS believes this was incidental contact. DOPS is like a parent who comes home to find his kid surrounded by spilled milk and believes the kid's story that a ghost did it.
Oh, DOPS never suspends for tripping? So the precedent has been set and the most a player can get for this is a fine? Damn. DOPS should look into who sets the suspension precedents and express outrage.
DOPS ineffectiveness aside, let's focus more on Marchand and why he's slipping back into his old ways.
Were we all being too nice, Brad? Were people saying you've gone soft and becoming a prissy star, so now you're showing you can still commit potentially career-ending acts against other players if you feel like it? You don't have to do that! You're not Zac Rinaldo. Your willingness to take out the knees of others doesn't determine if you stay in the NHL. You just signed an eight-year contract! You can just play hockey now!
If you go after top defensemen on other teams, someone will eventually retaliate against your best defensemen. Do you really want teams taking out Torey Krug or, hmmm, Torey Krug? Boy, what happened to that blue line in Boston?
Or maybe they will sweep the leg on Patrice Bergeron or David Pastrnak. Do you really want to give Tom Wilson, another guy who seemingly can't get suspended, a reason to murder David Krejci?
If that's not enough, maybe stop kicking out guys' legs because it's a crappy thing to do. The league won't stop you from doing it, so please, Brad Marchand, take it upon yourself to cease and desist this recent run of dangerous tripping.
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