Anderson: Brad Marchand deserved 'excessive' suspension

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Photo credit Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Bruins winger Brad Marchand, set to begin serving his sixth NHL suspension (and ninth total run-in if you include incidents in which Marchand escaped with just a fine) in a career that’s just eight seasons old, should be so far beyond the benefit of the doubt.

That’s why his latest suspension, a career-high five-game ban after a straight-up vicious elbow to Marcus Johansson, seems completely justified, if not deserved.

Now I know what you’re going to say.

The first and perhaps the most reasonable ideas of a systematically flawed argument: The hit was not penalized, making the jump to a technically legal hit to a five-game ban seem excessive. You could also make the (somewhat flimsy) case that Marchand had to make a choice between hitting Johansson or crashing into the Devil netminder. Though I would have to remark that such a hypothetical scenario seems like more of a stretch than the extension Marchand made with his right arm to make sure he cracked Johansson.

But maybe Marchand, targeted more than a few times this season, was simply defending himself from an incoming hit. Again, that holds up until you see Marchand’s extension and a listlessly gliding Johansson (possibly?) skating his way. Oh, and the fact that it’s Marcus bleepin’ Johansson -- a player that’s been whistled for just six penalties in over 460 minutes of action this season, and with none of those penalties coming as a result of rough stuff (not a single roughing, croschecking, boarding, or even interference penalty) -- coming at him.

You’ve also heard that Marchand is being unfairly punished two things; For prior transgressions that people believe should be thrown out the window if he’s getting a ‘fair’ trial. And also for some of the NHL’s earlier lapses or over-the-top punishments for lesser offenses, such as Dustin Brown’s non-suspension and then a suspension that put an end to Andrew Cogliano’s potentially record-breaking ironman streak.  

These theories do not hold up if you’re given a pinch of truth serum, though, and you know it.

When it comes to Marchand, we’re undoubtedly at the point where we simply ask why?

As the B’s top scorer, with a team-best 21 goals and 50 points despite missing eight games due to injury this season, there’s just no need for Marchand to throw that elbow. As the team clawing to their lead in the final moments of a 3-2 game, a win that would extend the B’s point streak to 17 games for the first time in 35 years, there’s no need to commit to revenge following a nothing play. As an All-Star for the second season in a row, there’s no need to give ammunition to those that will do anything to discredit your absolutely incredible career progression with lazy ‘he’s dirty’ narratives.

And given the upcoming slate for the Bruins, Marchand’s brainfart and subsequent return to the ultra-pest that crossed lines for status-building is simply inexcusable.

While the Bruins have a ‘gimme’ of sorts against the Senators on Thursday, the B’s will return from the All-Star break with games against the Ducks, Blues, Maple Leafs, and Red Wings. The Ducks and Blues have always been historically tough matchups for the Bruins, and the Maple Leafs seem like a first-round lock for the B’s. And it’d be nice for the Bruins, who have lost six-straight games to the Leafs, to collect a win before that first-round matchup, if only for their confidence at the start of what could be a deep run.

Needless to say, taking yourself out of these games is just plain dumb.  

And believe it or not, the Department of Player Safety seems to like Marchand.

They’ve given him the benefit of the doubt on more than a few occasions. Looking back on it, it's nothing short of a miracle that the league did not suspend Marchand for at least one playoff game after he clear-as-day speared Tampa Bay's Jake Dotchin in the groin at the end of the regular season in the first period of a meaningless game. They most recently let him off the hook when they decided to not even hold a hearing after what appeared to be a blatant headshot to the Islanders’ John Tavares (y'know, one of the NHL's star players) in December, and simply hoped that he’d remain true to his word as a reformed talent. And believe it or not -- and I know this is going to be especially hard for those of you in Quebec, Vancouver, or anywhere ‘cept here -- it’s hard not to like him. Marchand’s on-ice game is obviously among the league’s elite, his sense of humor is a charming one, and he’s a reporter’s delight as an always brutally honest interviewee.

He’s also consistently owned up to his mistakes after the fact when punished (or at least owns up to the recklessness or selfishness of his incidents), and has made a concerted effort to work the extra nonsense, which used to plague his game, out of his DNA.

But when it reappears and makes all the goodwill appear as nothing more than lip service, the punishment should fit the crime.

Marchand’s latest ban, which will seem like nothin' should No. 63 needlessly step back into his on-ice DeLorean yet again, does just that.