It’s no longer a matter of if Brad Marchand can be one of the most electrifying forwards in the NHL.
After being in the Hart Trophy conversation for two straight seasons, the Bruins winger isn’t so under-the-radar anymore. If you consider the national attention received for his antics (see: lick-gate), he’s been very much on the radar for some time.
Just how good Marchand has been the past couple of years might be lost on not-so-close observers. What might also be less obvious is his obsession with improving. His steady incline is no accident.
“I’m hoping to build on last year,” said Marchand. “I think that’s the goal every season, to try to get better. I want to be consistent and a good leader for the group.”
The 30-year-old tallied a career-high 85 points two seasons ago while missing just two games. Last season, he matched that production in just 60 games.
“Hopefully he plays in more games for us this year,” said Bruins president Cam Neely. “But I think with him and (Patrice) Bergeron, and if it ends up being (David) Pastrnak (on the line) all year, they should all have a really solid year.”
Since coming into the league as a fourth-line, “gritty” forward, Marchand’s rise to one of the most formidable scorers in the league came quickly. He’s watched and learned from the veterans around him. Spending so much time on the wing with Bergeron helped his maturity on the ice. Off the ice, that’s the part that’s always been highlighted.
For a team getting younger and younger, Marchand is focused on being one of the leading voices in the room. His harping on improving all-around is a sign he’s getting closer to being that guy.
“You try to take what you learn last year from the guys we have and try to improve on that,” he said.
That focus on climbing even higher up the ladder of the NHL’s elite hasn’t gone unnoticed. Everyone is curious to see if No. 63 can take it to the next level.
“Brad wants to improve his game,” said Neely. “That’s going to be something he keeps working on, where can he improve his game and how.”
Even as he’s become one of the more challenging wingers to stop, Marchand has a focus on the other end of the ice as well. Last season, his ability to out-skate opponents and his patience on odd-man rushes made him one of the most dangerous players on open ice.
Sure, the Bruins need him to be that top goal-scoring forward to be successful, but he believes his defensive game has slipped, and he wants to get back to being a complete player.
“I’d like to be better defensively,” he said. “I’ve worked a lot offensively the past few years and might have gotten away a bit from the defensive side.”
This season, the goal is to leave no doubt he’s the best on both sides.
“I want to get back there as a reliable two-way guy,” he said.
In a training camp full of questions, one of the only answers has been the top line, when healthy, will be Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. One of the top lines in the league last season, expectations are high once again.
Marchand and his teammates hear the noise. For Marchand to stay in the conversation as one of the world-class players the NHL has to offer, a focus on improving on the ice, and staying on said ice, is that next step.
He’s already shown he has the first part in him.
“I kind of expect more the same from him,” said Neely. “He’s the kind of player who wants to get better every year and has gotten better every year.”