Opinion: The Case For Brad Marchand To Win The Hart

NHL.com

My vote for this year’s Hart Trophy winner as league MVP has a last name that begins with an “M,” but it’s probably not who instinctively comes to mind.

Entering his 15th season as a member of the Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, now 35 years old, seldom takes things for granted. When it was announced he was named the franchise’s 27th captain, he kept it in perspective. “It means more to me than I think anyone will ever know to be able to wear a ‘C’ for this team… but I see the work that goes into it.” 

Marchand is no stranger to setting the bar higher than most feel comfortable. Heading into the 2010-11 season, the budding NHLer famously promised then Bruins head Claude Julien a 20 goal season. Considering he was penciled into their fourth line and designated primarily for penalty-killing duty, this was as safe a bet Julien could make. But by season’s end, Marchand scored 21 goals, was elevated to Patrice Bergeron’s line, and was a driving force behind winning the Stanley Cup. 

Related Article: 3 Things We Learned About The Bruins In The Preseason

Over the years, he’s continued to evolve his game. Since 2015-16, Marchand has become one of the league’s top-producing left wingers and, in doing so, shed his “pest” title.

However, coming off 67 points in 73 games played, his lowest total since the Covid shortened 53 games and 69 points in the 2020-21 season, Marchand undoubtedly is focused on regaining his 80+ point form. Which, in the absence of Bergeron, will be difficult but draws distinct parallels to another former teammate.

Taylor Hall was the recipient of the 2018 Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP. Despite failing to eclipse the 100 point mark, it was Hall who quite literally willed the New Jersey Devils to the 2018 playoffs. To put things into perspective, the 2016-17 Devils were abysmal, finishing 8th in their division with 70 points. Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri tied for the team lead with just 53 points. Their consolation prize? Nico Hischier. The following season, the Devils ballooned to 97 points and fourth place in their division. In turn, Hall blossomed to 93 points playing alongside Hischier, a turnaround so impressive Hall won MVP honors despite Connor McDavid winning the Ted Lindsay Award.

Similarly to Hall, and by lacking organizational depth at the position, Marchand has the potential to gain a new young center in Matt Poitras. He impressed both offensively 3-2-5 and at the faceoff dot, winning over 50% of his draws during the preseason. Where Poitras ends up on the depth chart is still up for debate. But it was Marchand playing alongside the youngster, who kept a play alive at his own blue line, ultimately setting up Poitras for a game-tying goal against the Washington Capitals. Perhaps a preview of what is to come?

Related Article: Brad Marchand Compares Matthew Poitras To NHL Star

Also worth noting is Marchand has managed a 100 point season once in 2018-19 and has finished no higher than 5th in Hart voting during his career. In the salary cap era, the Hart trophy has been awarded to a performer under 100 points just three times. Including Taylor Hall in 2018, Alex Ovechkin in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, and Corey Perry in 2011. So, the occurrence is rare but not outright impossible. 

After a longer-than-anticipated offseason, Marchand will be motivated to ensure his first season as captain will feature no step back in production. Additionally, a slew of personal milestones dangle tantalizingly close. Marchand is ten assists away from 500, 28 goals shy of 400, 38 more points from eclipsing 900, and 53 games away from 1000. 

After all, the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, and Marchand has been playing at a level of intensity during the preseason typically reserved for the playoffs.

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