When the Boston Bruins named Brad Marchand its 27th captain on Wednesday, there were two logical ways one’s mind could go. The first was that Marchand, a franchise fixture entering his 15th season in black and gold, was the heir apparent and most sensible candidate. The second thought drifts elsewhere — to the theatrics, the licking, the flopping, the misconducts, the childish sound bites, the dirty plays. It’s a reputation Marchand has come by honestly, carefully curating his decorated career under the veil of a professional wrestling heel so villainous that Ric Flair would be proud.
How Marchand performs as the Bruins’ captain will take care of itself. Captaincies tend to be overrated publicly, those wearing the “C” often either lionized or slandered based on matters of which they realistically have only limited control.
Marchand, the player, however, is far from overrated. In fact, he is among the most underrated players in hockey history. Let’s have some fun and look at a pair of career lines:
- Player A: 1,016 adjusted games, 429 adjusted goals, 978 adjusted points.
- Career adjusted pace: 35/44/79
- Player B: 1,112 adjusted games, 425 adjusted goals, 990 adjusted points.
- Career adjusted pace: 31/42/73
Player A is Marchand. He’s quietly been scoring 35 adjusted goals per 82 games for 14 years. He’s scored at an adjusted 30-goal pace nine times and, perhaps most impressively, an adjusted 90-point pace six times. All while playing on one of the league’s most defensively responsible teams on one of its most defensively responsible lines. Even at age 35 with countless miles on his tiny frame, JFresh’s player card below shows Marchand in the upper 10% of NHL players in projected value.
Player B in the comparison above? That’s NHL 100 Greatest Players member, Jonathan Toews. Offensively, Marchand has an edge, good for four goals and six points more than Toews per year, equaling his adjusted total output in roughly 100 games fewer. In the playoffs, Toews famously has three Cup rings to Marchand’s one. But each have made three finals in the salary cap era, and it’s Marchand who shockingly leads in playoff points (128-119).
Toews has fared much better in Selke voting as a four-time finalist, but Marchand has managed to earn largely down-ballot votes on 10 occasions too. While linemate Patrice Bergeron‘s formidable shadow has shielded Marchand’s brilliance, he’s been a major contributor to both Bergeron’s and the Bruins’ long-held sterling defensive reputation.
Brad Marchand: Hall of Famer?
When I conducted public Hall of Fame voting in June, Marchand came in at just 58% of respondents saying “Yes.” Recognizing he’s a polarizing figure for his weaselly ways, PPS has him as — wait for it — the 35th most-HHOF worthy forward in history. His PPS score of 294 is tied with legends Bryan Trottier, Jari Kurri, and Joe Thornton. Unfathomably elite company, to say the least.
By High Noon, which is the equivalent of the world golf rankings for hockey, Marchand peaked as the #3 forward in the NHL. He’s spent the last seven years in the top 15. He’s also made the first or second all-star team at left wing four times, second only to Alex Ovechkin at the position in the cap era.
Marchand’s Bruins are in a unique and turbulent position, fresh off a season of both overachievement and disappointment. Their “Last Dance” in 2022-23 yielded a preposterous, record-setting 135-point regular season, immediately crushed by a first round exit at the hands of the Florida Panthers. Absent any centre depth, the Bruins head into the season in perhaps the most unpredictable state of any of the NHL’s 32 teams. While their new captain has never been known for his predictability, his play the last 14 years has done more talking than his famously loose lips ever could — and that is saying something.
Brad Marchand is an all-time great player that has never received that level of praise. A lot of this is his own doing, as most are understandably eager to dismiss the brilliance of the class clown. He’s now been handed the keys to a captaincy held largely by respected Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers for an iconic franchise. So much of Hall of Fame cases can be reputation driven, a function of 18 members of a committee privately determining a player’s fate.
Here’s hoping that Marchand — a fearless, consistent, and underrated force in the game — uses his new responsibility to further boost a Hall of Fame case long proven by his play to be worthy of immortality.