NEWARK — In an anonymous NHLPA players poll featuring over 500 participants, Brad Marchand found himself in rare company — standing as one of just two players to finish first in numerous categories during the wide-ranging survey.
Sure, the Oilers’ Connor McDavid took home the honors for Best Forward, Most Difficult Player To Play Against and Player You’d Start A Franchise With.
But not to be outdone, Marchand also paced the pack in a pair of groupings: Best Trash Talker — and Worst Trash Talker.
A unique honor for sure, but the 30-year-old winger was candid when asked of the polarizing results on Wednesday.
“A little disappointed about the worst trash talker, but I mean, you can’t be on every time, right? You’re going to have a couple fails,” Marchand said, tongue in cheek. “But it’s an honor and a privilege. Just want to thank everyone around the league for dealing with me. It’s been fun.”
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Marchand continues to leap to the forefront of most players’ minds when it comes to chirps. After all, the pesky forward has cultivated quite the reputation for himself over his 10 years in the NHL — with his barbs and taunts not just reserved for opponents while lining up for a face-off or sitting on the bench.
“Giving grief? I’d probably say Marchy for sure,” Jake DeBrusk said of the best trash talker on the team. “He likes to give lots of guys heck here. Usually, I’m the one that kind of gets it the most, to be honest with you.”
Still, for as much as Marchand enjoys both pushing his teammates' buttons — both in person or via social media — or doling out a few digs during a game, Bruce Cassidy has noticed quite the shift in Marchand’s persona in regards to that area of the game.
Once a bottom-six contributor that had to toe the line between agitator and a “little ball of hate” in order to carve out a niche up at the NHL level, Marchand has come a long way from how Cassidy remembers him while coaching down in Providence — back when Marchand was already a refined pest with a hefty chip on his shoulder.
“Marchy with his trash talk, he’s getting more humorous than — X-rated, I guess? Probably not the best way to put it,” Cassidy said. “He’s a little bit less angry in his trash talk. A little more confident and funny, and I think it’s been good. Even with the refs, I think he’ll throw some stuff at them too and it’s stuff that the refs have to chuckle at and not get upset about.”
This season, Marchand is still good for a creative penalty-box insult or a celly that would make Don Cherry’s face turn scarlet, but it’s much more of a step down from his previous antics over the years.
Chirp king Brad Marchand: “How much did you pay to watch me?” pic.twitter.com/1X5NzWunqC
— Adam London (@_adamlondon) November 17, 2018
Even as recently as last season, Marchand found himself back in the principal’s office on a number of occasions — earning a five-game suspension for elbowing now-teammate Marcus Johansson while catching plenty of flak during the Stanley Cup Playoffs for licking both Leo Komarov and Ryan Callahan.
Once the Lightning ended Boston’s playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a contrite Marchand seemed ready to tone things down a bit in terms of how he carries himself on the ice, at least when it comes to getting into antics.
“That's kind of been something I've wanted to work on for the last few years," Marchand said back in May. "Just work more on that role. I've got to figure some s--- out before that's really going to happen to get to the next level where Bergy, Zee, Krech and Backs are. I've got to get rid of that stuff. The next few years, I think my biggest thing is turning around more of the character side of things than my game."
While a couple of fighting majors and 10-minute misconducts early in the year are the reason why Marchand currently sits seventh in the league this season in penalty minutes (92) — he has only accrued 12 total PIM over his last 30 games.
During that same stretch, Marchand has casually tallied 43 points — with the veteran on pace to be the first Bruins player to surpass 90 points in a single campaign since Marc Savard notched 96 in his first season in Boston back in 2006-07.
His frequent pestering of the Canucks in 2011, run-ins with the league office and suspensions have made Marchand a divisive figure during his time in the NHL — but Cassidy stated the obvious when noting that Marchand serves as much more than just a fly in the ointment for the opposition these days.
“He's been very, very good for us offensively. Big part of our power play. He's built that in into his resume. Shorthanded, him and Bergy are hot now,” Cassidy said. “He's been a consistent guy. Very driven. Very driven hockey player.
“Wants to be known as a productive player first and not — maybe when he first came into the league, he had to be a bit more of a pest to establish himself. I think he's well past that now and he's trying to make sure he stays aggressive, assertive, annoying. But not crossing the line. He's done a great job with that."
Still, Marchand will rarely turn down a chance to chide a teammate or opposing player when given the opportunity, albeit in a much more toned-down delivery.
“Usually it’s just death threats out there,” DeBrusk said of the usual chirps he hears from opponents. “Those are the ones that I usually get, but the ones I like are the funnier ones. It depends on the moment. Someone gets a cheeky comment — Marchy’s usually pretty good with those, chirp someone about their style or their hair or the little things. He kind of finds everything to chirp. Those are the ones that I find are funny. Obviously a little funnier than the death threats.”
He’s made headlines as of late for trading shots with Torey Krug and David Pastrnak on Twitter, but Marchand acknowledged that his online jabs and his teammates’ retorts stand as a good way to show off the tight-knit group that the Bruins have in their locker room.
— Brad Marchand (@Bmarch63) March 17, 2019
"We're having fun at the rink. We're having fun away from it,” Marchand said. “I think everybody getting involved in social media and showing people how we play around with each other and how we joke around with one and other, the fun that we have in the room and off the ice, it just gives them a little bit of an inside look into our relationships.
“I think when you have fun and get along well off the ice, that chemistry builds on the ice. Not so much social media stuff, but just camaraderie that we have in the room and with the group and together, I think it definitely translates to when we play and how we play for one and other and how we care for one another on the ice.”
At this point, even a Twitter-less Cassidy has bought in on the ongoing Marchand-Krug Social-Media Skirmish of 2019.
“I do love the battle he has with Krug right now,” Cassidy said. “I'm waiting anxiously for Krug's retort, and I'm not even on (Twitter), right? So, I'm the last one to find out. I have to watch NESN or the NHL Network to get it, but I think that's been hilarious. Good stuff.”
With another postseason just a couple of weeks away, the Bruins are going to need Marchand to continue to set the tone up front as one of the most dynamic wingers in the entire league.
But with extended matchups against divisional foes like Toronto and Tampa Bay likely on the docket, it’s a good bet that Marchand already has a couple of creative chirps ready to drop once playoff hockey gets underway.
“Yeah — a lot less this year,” Marchand said toning things down. “But I mean, it’s been a long time. I’ve been here, 9-10 years, whatever it’s been. I’m not just going to forget in one year, right?”