When Bruins coach Jim Montgomery recently invited Brad Marchand to a dinner with team president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney, Marchand suspected and hoped that they would be talking about Boston’s vacant captaincy.
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It wasn’t that Marchand desperately wanted the “C” or had been obsessing over it or anything. In fact, he tried his best to not give it much thought this summer. But he knew that whether he was chosen as the next captain or not, the conversation was coming at some point, and he was happy to get it out of the way before training camp began.
After a little bit of small talk, Neely finally cut to the chase: The organization’s leadership group had, in fact, decided that Marchand would be the 27th captain in franchise history. It is an honor that Marchand does not take lightly.
“I am extremely proud and honored,” Marchand said Wednesday shortly after the team announced the news publicly. “It means more to me than I think anyone will ever know. To be able to wear the ‘C’ for this team, when you look at the leaders that have been here before me and the guys that I've been fortunate enough to be under, they take an incredible amount of pride in everything that they can possibly be for this team, and do. It's been incredible to see, but I’ve seen the work that goes into it.”
Marchand is as prepared for that work as anyone reasonably could be. Now 35 years old, he is beginning his 15th season as a Bruin. He has learned from Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, two of the greatest players and leaders in franchise history. He was Bergeron’s running mate on the ice for over a decade, and since Bergeron inherited the ‘C’ from Chara in 2020, he was also Bergeron’s right-hand man off it as an alternate captain.
Marchand, however, is not Chara or Bergeron. While those two often projected calmness and stoicism on and off the ice, Marchand has always been a firebrand, wearing his emotions and passion on his sleeve, and sometimes getting himself in trouble because of it. He has been suspended eight times in his career, most recently in Feb. 2022.
Marchand has been adamant over the years that he would not have become the elite player he is now – a player who has finished top 10 in MVP voting four times – if he didn’t play with that edge. It fuels him, and it often fuels his team when a spark is needed. As former Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy often put it, Marchand drags his teammates into the fight.
Bruins management does not want the ‘C’ to dull that edge. They do want Marchand to be a little more in control of his emotions, though, which is something they believe their new captain had already been working on in recent years.
“I think he's realized trying to find that fine line of being the player that he wants to be and controlling his emotions when he needs to,” Neely said Wednesday. “He's a very emotional player, so sometimes that gets you in trouble, which it has in the past for him. But he's done a nice job in the last couple of years, in my opinion, of controlling his emotions a little bit better, while still being able to be that competitive player that we all like and respect with Brad's game.
“That was definitely a conversation that we had with Brad when we kind of came to the conclusion that he would be our next captain,” Neely added. “We don't want him to change his game, because he's such a great player for us, and his competitiveness makes him a great player. It was a long discussion about him not trying to be anybody that he isn’t, and just control his emotions, as he's done the last year or two, but still be that competitive player.”
While Marchand spent years on the so-called “Perfection Line,” he’s making no promises about being a perfect captain, at least not right away. He is promising to put in the effort and do his best to find the right balance, though.
“It's going to be a continued work-in-progress,” Marchand said. “I definitely don't expect to step in and be perfect off the hop. I do play with a certain type of passion and emotion, and I won't lose that. That's just who I am. And I'll continue to do that to be a good player in this league. It's allowed me to be successful, and I don't want to get away from that. But there is definitely – the guys that I've seen wear the 'C' for this team, the effort that goes into it.”
The other balance Marchand will be looking to strike is that of continuing what Chara and Bergeron built while also being himself and leading his own way.
“I've seen two of the best leaders, leading in this game, come through here. And I'd love for my name to be beside theirs in that category when I'm done,” Marchand said. “…I think that there's things that you can implement in our group from both of those guys that were very effective, and that they thrived in. But, I'm also not them, so I can't do what they do. I just want to try to find our own path as a group.”
That process began even before Marchand officially had the ‘C,’ as it was clear that he was the one leading the way during captains’ practices over the last couple weeks. Now it really begins in earnest, though, with the Bruins holding their first official team practice of training camp on Thursday.