The World Cup of Hockey has been a coming out party of sorts for Boston Bruins left winger Brad Marchand, whose broken through the doors of the lodge of elite left wingers in the world through his performance for Team Canada. He’s been a key cog for the Red Leafs top line that’s rounded out with world-class forwards Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby.
For those who haven’t seen enough of Marchand or have been wary of his place among his peers, they’ve been put on notice of just how great a player Marchand is through his performance. For those who have helped make his case in recent years, it’s proof positive that the 28-year-old has a rightful place among the elite at his position, which includes Alex Ovechkin, Jamie Benn, Johnny Gaudreau, Max Pacioretty, Alex Steen, Filip Forsberg, and Brandon Saad, among a few others.
It’s more likely than not that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in the latter group when it came to opinions on Marchand. Regardless of what his opinions were of the Bruin, he made his current take on the player pretty clear on Monday morning when he signed Marchand to a contract extension at the maximum term of eight years. The total value of the deal is $49 million, his $6.125 million cap hit currently set to be the sixth-highest among left wingers when it takes effect at the start of the 2017-18 season according to spotrac.com.
Whether or not Marchand’s 37-goal campaign in 2015-16 was an anomaly is up for debate, and we’ll get further answers on that in the coming months. But there’s no doubt he’s worth the paycheck he’ll start accruing in 12 months.
Since coming into the league regularly in 2010-11, Marchand has averaged 0.353 goals per game. That translates to 28.95 goals for every 82 games played. That number ranks fifth among all left wingers who have logged 400 games over that span behind Ovechkin (0.58), Rich Nash (0.41), Benn (.40), and Patrick Sharp (0.36). Over the past two seasons, only Ovechkin and Benn have a higher output in the category.
So let’s set the standard for Marchand at 29 goals per season, which is a safe assessment of what to expect. Not the 37 he scored last season, but not the 18 he was on pace for midway through the 2013-14 season, when he slumped to 10 goals in his first 45 games (he finished with 25 in 82 games).
Twenty-nine sounds pretty pedestrian, does it not? Maybe it once was, but in the age of better goalies in bigger padding, defensive systems, and balanced, four-line attacks, that total has weaseled its way into the upper-echelon.
Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Jarome Iginla, and Tomas Tatar scored 29 goals apiece in 2014-15, tying for 16th on the goal scoring list for the season. Never had players been so high leaders list with such a scoring output. When Mark Scheifele and Mike Hoffman tied for 29th with 29 goals last season, it marked the fifth time in six years 29 goals ranked in the top 30 during an 82-game season.
Marchand’s cap hit of $6.125 million is tied for 50th as the player salaries are currently constituted. The counterargument to that is he’s finished in the top 50 in points just twice, one of which was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The other was this past campaign, which ultimately earned him this extension.
Marchand’s best work has been on the penalty kill, where he’s been one of the league’s best since entering the NHL. His 25 shorthanded points since the start of the 2010-11 season is tops in the NHL, the next-closest to his 19 goals being Jonathan Toews and Frans Nielsen, with 13. Marchand’s Tasmanian Devil-style approach without the puck fits him well as the role of the offensive zone lone-man in on the PK. His quick stick helps break the puck movement and flow of opposing power play units. He averaged a career-high 2:00 of shorthanded time per game last season.
The last number points at what might be the biggest factor surrounding the logic behind Marchand’s extension. His role in Claude Julien’s lineup is expanding.
Aside from the shorthanded time on ice, Marchand set career-highs in even strength time on ice per game (15:07) and overall time on ice (18:36). His 1:28 of man-advantage time was the highest since the 1:44 he averaged in 2012-13.
In his first few seasons in the league, Marchand logged 16-17 minutes of ice time per game, on average; 14 minutes of five-on-five, 1:30 shorthanded, his time on the man-advantage around 2:00 in his first couple years before dissipating to 30 seconds to a minute for a while before spiking back up this past season.
It’s clear he’s becoming a go-to player for Julien, an all-situations player that is in low demand in the NHL.
So is he worth the money? The answer is a resounding yes.
In fact, he only appears to be getting better.