Quite the kerfuffle with the Bruins over the last 10 days or so, what with Shawn Thornton KOing an unsuspecting victim and getting suspended 15 games, the whole team getting the flu, everyone getting injured, Jarome Iginla dislocating a finger in a needless fight, Tuukka Rask giving up a goal from center ice, and the Bruins losing 6-2 to Vancouver, and Milan Lucic being assaulted by some no-neck clown in a bar for little to no reason at all.
But the thing that’s most egregious of all of these, and for which the team will under no circumstances stand, is Brad Marchand making fun of the Canucks and their fans. He kissed an invisible Stanley Cup ring. He raised an invisible Stanley Cup twice.
The first of these incidents came during warmups, and everyone would have had a nice little laugh about it. The second came with the Bruins down 3-1, following a run-in between Marchand and Ryan Kesler. The third came with Boston trailing 4-1. Coach Claude Julien was in no way happy about these incidents:
“He’s a good player, and he’s an agitator, and there’s some good things to that part of his game, but there’s certain areas where — again, I’ve said it before — you can’t cross the line. … The perception it gives our organization is not what you want to see with those kind of things. … He’s too good of a player and we don’t want him to be a different player, but there’s certain things we want him to be different at. From what I hear, what happened, that’s definitely not something we will accept in our organization.”
Now, apart from it of course being idiotic to celebrate a championship won two and a half years ago when you’re down two and then three goals in the here and now, the fact of the matter is that this is perhaps the least horrible thing Marchand has done to the Canucks in his illustrious career. The rabbit punches to Daniel Sedin for no reason whatsoever, the low-bridges on Sami Salo and the aforementioned Sedin twin, and those are just from the last two-plus seasons.
These are the kinds of things for which one gets suspended (and indeed, for which Marchand has been suspended) and they are certainly more detrimental to opponents’ health and team’s quality than kissing an imaginary ring.
But the Bruins have never been a team to deal in logic when it comes to these kinds of things, having dumped Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, both extremely productive and young budding superstars at the time of their dismissal from the quote-unquote Hub of Hockey, simply because their teammates didn’t like them very much. You’ll note above that Julien likes how Marchand plays (that is, with intent to injure) but this kind of thing is beyond the pale.
What actually seems to be at issue here, is that Marchand simply isn’t playing very well this season, having amassed just 14 points in 33 contests, well below his career average goals and points per game. It seems that when Marchand is occasionally putting an opponent in a very dangerous position, and also producing points by the bucketful (see: the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs), these things aren’t quite so much of an issue.
But now rumors are starting to swirl in Boston from the usual sources of this kind of thing — the kinds of sources that throw rotten fruit at Seguin or Tim Thomas after they’re out of favor and out of town — that if Marchand doesn’t clean up his act with regard to the childish antics, then he might find himself traded to Winnipeg or somewhere equally undesirable in a hurry. Either that or he can start scoring more, one assumes.
None of this, however, is to say that the Bruins are in any way unique in this regard. They certainly seem to have a lower tolerance for it than most, or perhaps a higher tolerance to injurious play, but this is a pervasive problem in the NHL, and professional sports in general.
For instance, we often bemoan the fact that professional athletes are boring and no fun. Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews behave like robots who are only just now beginning to learn what “Hoomon Emotion” is, and this is somehow preferable to the actual excitement that goes with the geniuinely entertaining things that ever so occasionally happen in this league.
Ovechkin’s “hot stick” celebration, Linus Omark’s spin-o-rama in the shootout, Nail Yakupov doing just about anything, and more recently Max Pacioretty’s “sheathing the sword” celebration, heck even Carey Price and PK Subban’s triple-low five have all garnered criticism. A lot of these were shouted down by people who took a rational approach, because Ovechkin for example was at the time almost literally unstoppable; the “hot stick” was in 2009, when he scored 56 goals, and was already coming off a 65-goal season. Yakupov got less of a pass but he nonetheless had 31 points in his 48-game rookie season. If he tried it now, with just 12 points in 33 games, forget it, he’d be on the next plane to Nizhnekamsk, wedged between the chicken coops. As for the triple-low five? Did you SEE Price’s save percentage last season? It had to go.
Some of the grumbling about Pacioretty’s celebration, too, was centered on the fact that his production hasn’t been all that great this season, even if he had, in the several games leading up to that big home win over Toronto, have a hat trick and a two-goal game. “What’s he thinking, celebrating his third point and a decisive goal over his team’s archrivals?”
This also, to some extent, falls under the banner of respecting one’s opponent, but this is the NHL, so that only means showing them up. Respecting their ability to play the game without fear of being intentionally injured? You’re having a laugh.
Success is and always will be the best way to put wallpaper over your shortcomings; think there’s a problem with Seguin’s drinking if he scores five more goals in the playoffs and the Bruins win the Cup? Maybe, but he’s not taking the slow train to Dallas. So if you’re an NHLer who wants to act like a childish idiot, you better hope you’re producing when you do it. Otherwise you’re going to find yourself in hot water.