Monday December 16th, 2013

Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins taunted the Vancouver Canucks and their fans. Brad Marchand's pot-stirring act has caused some concern about the Bruins' image. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

The Boston Bruins have made two trips to the Stanley Cup Final during the last three seasons on the strength of a clear and strict program.

And they have very little patience for players who cannot adhere to it.

Take Tyler Seguin. The second-overall pick in 2010 and a world-class talent, he was dealt to Dallas over the summer for a number of reasons, including a contract that was going to be a problem under the tightened cap, and a log jam at center, his natural position.

But mostly he was expendable because his on- and off-ice actions led the Bruins to determine that he was more trouble than he was worth.

It was a bold deal, one that could swing heavily in the favor of the Stars before long. But that's a price that GM Peter Chiarelli was willing to pay to keep the team's house in order.

And so, if Chiarelli was willing to take four quarters for a dollar on Seguin, where does that leave his old running buddy, Brad Marchand?

The fifth-year winger is a shadow of the player he was during his first two full seasons, when he redefined the role of the super-pest and played a key role in Boston's 2011 championship. At his best, Marchand was hockey's version of Quint scraping his nails on the Amity city hall chalk board, the guy who speed-bagged Daniel Sedin's face in Game 6 of the 2011 Cup final, but also went on to score a career-high 28 goals in 2011-12.

But he hasn't been that player this year. The two-way play and the aggression aren't there (he ranks a dismal 13th on the team in hits). And neither is the scoring touch that separated him from the legions of hard-working buzzsaws that are scrounging out a living as fourth-line energy players.

Marchand has put up points in back-to-back games only once this season and is on pace for 12 goals and 35 points, which makes for a lousy return for Boston on the new four-year, $18 million deal that kicked in this year.

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Hard to believe that this is the same guy who was personally invited to Team Canada's camp by Steve Yzerman last summer.

Now it might just be an off-year, which in and of itself wouldn't a big problem. Slumps like this are something a team can ride out with a good soldier. The Bruins did just that last season with Milan Lucic.

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Marchand, though, may have crossed a line with the team on Saturday night with his embarrassing display against the Vancouver Canucks. In the wake of a scrum with Ryan Kesler, Marchand skated by the Canucks' bench and mimicked raising the Stanley Cup and kissing his championship ring.

As far as taunts go, those were pretty creative, but coach Claude Julien was unimpressed.

“Sometimes his emotions get the better of him,” Julien said after the Bruins' humbling 6-2 loss. “The perception it gives our organization is not what you want to see with those kind of things.

“It’s certainly something we are going to deal with. He’s too good a player, and we don’t want him to be a different player, but there are 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.”

Even through his carefully chosen words, the Julien's frustration was evident. He said the team works with Marchand and "are going to continue to work with him," but with the Bruins in win-now mode, their patience will only go so far with a player who is rowing in another direction.

Clearly Marchand can be a valuable player for Boston. A difference maker. They're a very difficult team to beat when he's on his game. But you have to wonder if his head is in the right place ... and if it's not, you wonder if Julien and his staff can get him back on track. The B's didn't waste any time pulling the trigger on that much riskier deal involving Seguin. And with Reilly Smith proving himself capable of playing a safer, smarter top-six role, they may decide they can risk moving forward without Marchand, too.

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