Has the NHL Seriously Not Yet Figured Out Brad Marchand?

By now, you've probably all heard about Brad Marchand's ill-fated attempt to hip check Habs hitting machine Alexei Yemelin, in the dying seconds of the second period in last night's 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. You've probably also heard that the hit will go unpunished by Brendan Shanahan and the NHL.

But the hit, and the lack of punishment at the NHL level raises many questions about how Shanahan and his staff judge these sorts of things, and what the criteria really is for repeat offenders and people who clearly can't get a message.

But first, the hit itself. As the second period came to a close, Marchand rushed Emelin, who was along the boards. Emelin braced for a shoulder hit, and was instead greeted with an ill-conceived attempt at a hip check. The result was what many called a "clip"; what I like to call a low-bridge. It was also incredibly ironic, considering Emelin seems to be the only person in the league who can pull off a  proper hip check these days.

Here's the video:



The hit would go draw a 2-minute clipping penalty during the game, but today, it would go unpunished from Brendan Shanahan's office of occasional discipline. Shanahan's explanation on Twitter:

Like all penalties on the ice, not all "clips" rise to the level of supplemental discipline. This check by Marchand was delivered to the upper thigh/hip and not the knee area. We don't like it, but not SD.

The justification is more or less valid, on the surface. It's true, Marchand didn't make contact around or under the knees, he ended up hitting him around the hips. Moreover, Emelin came out of the incident uninjured. But by this point, you're probably getting the impression that I'm not exactly happy with this decision, and that I'm trying to get all the impartial facts out of the way before my Bruins hate starts to kick in; and you're right. Because it isn't about a freeze-frame of the moment Marchand made contact, or the meaning of one clip versus another. There's a bigger picture here. Brad Marchand is a dangerous, bonehead player who isn't going to stop until someone has to be carried out of an arena with a broken leg.

Last year, Brendan Shanahan came into his position as the league's head disciplinarian promising change, transparency and objectivity in all matters relating to suspensions. Most of the way through the season, we've been left wondering what has really changed since Colin Campbell decided he didn't want to have to deal with punishing his son's team anymore, outside of a few poorly-acted videos on NHL.com and a Twitter feed.

As this decision shows, the answer is... well, not much. 

As a writer, constantly scouring the web for stories and discussion, I can tell you with relative certainty that people tend to over-analyze just about every hit, and Shanahan has done exactly this. Pausing video at one frame or another in order to justify his decision, showing hits at reduced speeds or out of context, even blatantly disregarding that same context. This is exactly what in this situation between Marchand and Emelin.

It's shouldn't be about the initial point of content, nor should it be the result on the targeted player. It should be about intent. And you'd have to be blind to miss the fact that Brad Marchand intended to hurt someone out there, when he decided to take a run at a player who's M.O. is to hit everything that moves, and hit it hard, no less at the very end of a period.

Marchand's been running a fool's errand all season, trying to pull off the hip-check Instead, all he's managed to do is low-bridge just about everyone of them with dangerous hits. The most recent example came from the highly contested Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Vancouver Canucks last month in Boston, where Marchand decided to try to upend Canucks defenseman Sami Salo by crouching into a standing fetal position. The result was a five-game suspension, and it really should have been longer.

So it's no surprise that the next Marchand incident comes almost exactly one month later, and not twelve games after having served that suspension, and more importantly, against the Bruins' other biggest rival, the Montreal Canadiens, against a player who has been a thorn in the side of the Bruins all season, after years of a severe physical mismatch between the clubs. What I'm trying to say is that Marchand clearly took a run at the Habs' only physical threat.

There's really no other reason for it. With a couple of seconds left in the period, Marchand should have been nowhere near Emelin, who was in the Habs own zone. He was motionless, and he was bracing for a hit. Instead, what he got was an attempt to injure at the hands of the Bruins' forward, and the fact that the NHL is ready to brush it off as simply a failed hip check attempt is absolute bollocks. Marchand has the history, he has the motive and the intent. And, oh ya, it isn't the first time he's tried to injure Emelin.

How can you suspend a player five games one month for upending an opponent, and then brush off the next time he tries to pull the exact same stunt, simply because he botched it? 

Marchand's a talented played and a big part of the Bruins. But he's also, quite frankly, an idiot. After several attempts at hurting players with unnecessarily low hits, it's time the league took proper action before he breaks someone's legs out there, and not ignore it simply because he's an important member of a playoff-bound team. And let's not even get started on the fact that Marchand had the audacity to complain about Bell Centre fans being classless.


Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

I get what you're saying Prax, but that's just what he does. And I don't think you can compare his actions during the game to Habs fans cheering Chara getting hit in the face with a puck. Marchand's play is on the edge and sometimes (ok most of the time) he goes over the line. I don't agree with what he's done in the past, but seeing Emelin wasn't seriously hurt, a two minute penalty was probably the right call.

George Prax's picture

Why should it matter whether he's hurt or not? It's clear that there was intent, he just botched what he was trying to do. It's like saying that if you're shooting at someone's face, but the bullet misses and only grazes his shoulder, you shouldn't go to prison. And you've already served time in prison for shooting people in the past. Marchand goes after people, and he goes after their legs. Regardless of where he hits, it's dangerous and in some cases malicious. 2 seconds left in a period, Emelin is motionless and bracing for a hit, and he goes for a hip check? What kind of bullshit is that? You can't brush it off because, of well, that's who he is. That's bogus.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

Did I say I was brushing it off? Not at all. He's a little shit and he deserves to get run by someone. But as an agitator, he's one of the best. He even agitates the fans! And yes it matters if Emelin was hurt or not, Shanahan always takes that into account in his dealings with suspensions.

George Prax's picture

I'm saying it shouldn't matter whether or not they're not injured, not if Shanahan thinks it should. Like I said. If I should at your face and miss, it's still attempted murder.

Phil T's picture

Sadly he's probably not going to get the proper message until he seriously hurts someone again.

Taylor Giffin's picture

It is not a matter of him getting the message once he seriously hurts someone again, it is more of a matter when someone puts their knee to his face when he is doing one of his low hits that he will get the message. If players see him coming and now know that he has a history of these sorts of hits they are not going to risk their own bodies to get injured. It is only a matter of time when Marchand gets the proper message when HE seriouslly gets injured, rather than injuring another opponent.

Taylor Giffin's picture

Not even just a knee, maybe an elbow, a stick or something. Anything that will protect them.

ddaversa's picture

The problem with Shanahan, and the NHL authority prior to him, is that they look at the result (injury or not) instead of *intent* (does he want to hurt, or not). In Marchand's case, what is ridiculous (and sends a terrible message) is that he got suspended the first time, and on a repeat occasion, as you so very well said it yourself, just because he botched it... he gets away with it. Really, Mr. Shanahan? The word here is, again, INTENT.

By Shanahan's definition, if a person unloads a gun in a crowd but his bullets hit nobody, it's OK, because nobody got hurt! If, however, the bullet hurts/kills someone, then it's not legal anymore. It does not make sense!

Another example would be driving past a speed limit. To Shanahan's reasoning, it's a crime if you hit someone, but if you're alone on the street... go ahead, speed up!

So much for the "sheriff" label. McDonald's Hamburgler had it worse.

George Prax's picture

Clearly if you get hit by someone who was speeding, you should have kept your head up and seen him coming *sarcasm*. Thank you for reinforcing my point, this is exactly what I meant!