Whether they like it or not, being criticized and mentioned in trade rumors have always been part of being a professional athlete and are so even more in today’s world of social media and instant news. In many ways this has been great for both sports fans and media alike. But not so much for the athletes as they have become more and more wary of what they say to the media for fear that their words may be misinterpreted and/or misconstrued. That is why it’s even more refreshing now when athletes do open up and speak their mind to the media despite the possible consequences they may face.
So before I give my take here as I did on my show “Top Shelf” last Wednesday, on Bruins winger Brad Marchand ripping the media on the day of his team’s season opener for trade rumors surrounding him over the summer and also giving his opinion on the NHL’s new embellishment rule after being the first player NHL referees enforced it on, I’d like to commend Marchand and other athletes who aren’t afraid to tell it like they see it.
That being said there’s a difference between speaking your mind and coming off as a Prima Donna and a whiner. Throughout the first week of this young NHL season and at other times in his career, that’s exactly how Marchand has come off. All the “little ball of hate” needed last week was some fine cheese for his whine. Being upset about trade rumors involving him and expressing such frustration is only natural. But actually challenging the reporters that wrote them as well as calling for their jobs, is another. To this reporter’s knowledge there was no libel involved in any of the reports surrounding him and no vicious shots taken at him. But there was Marchand last week almost threatening reporters.
“I’d love to see some of these guys away from the rink and have a few words with them,” he told 98.5 The Sports Hub on October 8. “I’d love some of these guys to get fired, is what I’d love. I’d love for them to be in my position, and tell them, ‘All right, you’re getting fired because you’re doing a horrible job at actually getting real information.’ I’d love to go back through the tweets in the summer and see how many reporters’ tweets about who’s getting traded, and the trades that were coming. How many of them were right? None of them.”
Three days later Marchand was criticizing referees and the NHL over the new embellishment rule that was enforced on him in a 2-1 loss to the Red Wings October 9.
“I think the new rule is a little absurd,” Marchand told WEEI.com Saturday. “It’s all a judgment call by the referee. How do you judge how guys are on their balance, how they’re on their skates? What if they’re on one foot and on their turn a guy gets pushed? Does that mean that he has embellished?
“The fact that guys are going to start getting fined for it, I don’t agree with that. It’s all the discretion of the referee and you’ve got to try to play within the rules. We’re going to try to find that line, but at end of the day, it’s up to the referees with what they want to call, and you’ve got to live with it.”
By all accounts, Marchand took this past offseason to make sure he was in top shape when he arrived back in Boston for training camp last month and showed he was ready with a consistent effort throughout the preseason. Last season that wasn’t the case as Marchand didn’t appear to be ready to go and that carried over into the regular season when he lit the lamp just three times in the first two months (23 games) of the season.
The pesky Marchand did however recover nicely as the season went on to finish with 25 goals and 53 points. But he then reverted to his early season form when his team needed him most, failing to light the lamp in 12 playoff games and finishing with just five assists as his team was eliminated by the Canadiens in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
He has now gone 20 playoff games without a goal and that lack of production, inconsistency and propensity to take untimely penalties combined with the Bruins’ salary cap issues and his attractable $4.5 million cap hit made him a regular name on the trade rumor circuit in the offseason. Those rumors weren’t just confined to fans and media though and as during the 2014 Stanley Cup finals this scribe was told by multiple sources across the NHL (including a Sharks source) at the time that the Bruins were listening to offers for Marchand and other players such as defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski. Boychuk eventually did become the sacrificial cap-hit lamb October 4 when then Bruins reluctantly dealt him to the Islanders for a bevy of draft picks and became cap compliant just before this current season began.
Despite the fact Marchand wasn’t the one dealt, he was clearly irked over the rumors and has entered the season with a chip on his shoulder. But there’s one problem: that chip on his shoulder hasn’t translated into success on the ice, as he has no points through his first four games. It may be time for Marchand to stop having his friends troll Twitter and for him to stop taking out his lack of production and questionable choices on the ice on reporters, referees and the league. He has shown he has the potential to be a 30-goal scorer and that he can deliver in the playoffs as he did in 2011 when he helped the Bruins to a Stanley cup with 11 goals and 19 points in 25 games. This scribe for one thinks he can do that on a consistent basis while being one of the biggest pests in the NHL. But the on ice antics and brain cramps as well as the whining need to stop for that to happen.
And Brad, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings and I’d be glad to meet you anywhere for a chat!
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