The Backcheck: More Lightning, Some All-Star & a Little Brad Marchand

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Brad Marchand

Every week, Sportsnet’s Eliotte Friedman writes a column called “30 Thoughts” and it’s basically the NHL article I look most forward to, as it gives—you guessed it—30 tidbits about the goings on the NHL based off of info Friedman has gotten from his sources.

In the past, former TheScore.com writer Justin Bourne wrote the second article I most looked forward to, “Thoughts on Thoughts” in which Bourne picked his five favorite Friedman thoughts and elaborated.

Unfortunately for those who loving reading Hockey articles—but fabulously for Justin Bourne himself—Bourne was hired by the Toronto Marlies as their video coach and so his article has ceased to exist.

However! As is the American way, I shall not let a good idea go to waste!  So for this column, “The Backcheck,” I am going to rip off Coach Bourne and basically co-opt his idea for TheThreeFour.com’s purposes.

Each week, following Elliotte Friedman’s wonderful piece, I will go back (get it? Backcheck?) through—however many—tidbits that interested me and give my opinion on them. It may be five, like Bourne’s; it may be 1, who knows? Whatever topics need to be elaborated on shall be.


This week’s 30 Thoughts: Good luck intimidating Yzerman

Two years ago, as part of a blog on how the 2013 NHL Draft unfolded, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman admitted pairing a left-shot Jonathan Drouin with a right-shot Steven Stamkos factored into his thinking. “(Drouin’s) only 18 and hasn’t played in the NHL yet,” Yzerman said in October 2013. “But you make projections…We had that in mind, that he could fit very well into what we’re trying to do.” Twenty-six months later, the Lightning stare at the possibility of a future without both men.

I wrote enough about this in this week’s Wild Accusations so I won’t elaborate too much on this, but I do want to say one thing that is not in my column. While I do maintain that the Lightning could be making a big mistake by jettisoning both those players, I do agree with most that there is a lot of gall in Jonathan Drouin’s camp to be making trade demands 23 months into his NHL career. You might want to hold a little more clout in the league before making demands like this (look how long it took Kyle Turris to get his career back on track), but the fact that he was willing to go public with it so early into his career speaks to the issues going on in Tampa Bay

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported last week Philadelphia-Pittsburgh could be the 2017 Winter Classic if it’s not Toronto. The Maple Leafs badly want that game, with the Rangers believed to be the likely opponent. There were rumours the NHL was considering an outdoor “doubleheader,” that day, with both games on the schedule. Now, I’m told that’s “very unlikely.” The Toronto issue is the city’s crowded sports calendar — World Cup, Grey Cup, World Juniors. Is the right time New Year’s Day, smack in the middle of the juniors, less than three weeks after the Grey Cup? And, will tickets for the World Cup stop selling if there’s an outdoor game? That’s also going to be an expensive ticket because of the smaller venue.

I tweeted this out during the game, but I’ll reiterate my desire for the Winter Classic to also be the All-Star Game.

Think about it. The Winter Classic is losing its allure (especially with how many their holding), and the All-Star game is already a novelty, so just combine the two. That way, you’re not having an actual NHL game decided on potentially bad ice and you’re bringing that event-type status back to the All-Star game. Especially with the new 3v3 format, playing on outdoors will give the All-Star game a pond-hockey type feel.

I know the NHL wants to have as many big events as they can, since they bring in tons of money, but I really think an Outdoor NHL All-Star game would be fun to watch. Heck, a guy can dream, right?

David Krejci gets hurt, Brad Marchand gets an alternate captaincy, and in his first game with the letter, he gets suspended. What stood out was how many coaches and executives basically said the same thing: “He’s a great player, but you cannot trust him.” With Milan Lucic gone, Marchand gets a chance to become the Bruins’ emotional leader, an important role for that team in that city. However, it’s the second time this season he’s apologized for a costly penalty. Marchand has one more year on his contract. He could cash in. He could also cost himself a lot of money.

Brad Marchand is a really good NHL player, and he has been for some time, which is why it’s so frustrating to watch him do these dumb types of things. You hear it a lot from guys first coming into the league that they need to play on edge, say whatever they need to say, do whatever they need to do, just to stay in the league. As a 5’9”, 3rd round pick, you could definitely understand why Marchand felt that way when he first came into the league, but that thought should have left him, if not by the 2012-13 lockout, then certainly after it, when he started scoring 0.65 points per game.

But that’s the thing with these types of players. They play a certain way—we call them rats—to get into the league and stay in the league, and it becomes so ingrained in them that they can’t get rid of that part of them. Claude Lemieux did it all the way to four Stanley Cups and one Conn Smythe. On the flip side, Raffi Torres did it all the way out of the NHL.

There’s a fine line with these “rats,” because they’re the type of players that you like to have on your team…as long as they don’t cross that final line. And there is a final line. Every team will support their teammate until they cross the line that can’t be uncrossed (Sean Avery). Marchand is too good a player to even be in that realm. He could just straight up play, none of the BS, and be fine in the NHL. I hope someday he does it.

Everyone has their episode of Coach’s Corner they remember. One that stood out for me was when fans tried to vote Rory Fitzpatrick for the all-star game. Cherry railed against it, saying, “They’re not laughing with you, they are laughing at you.” It was the truth then, and it’s the truth now. The players have to take responsibility for this, as they’ve allowed it to devolve where this can happen. There is no doubt the league will make changes to prevent a repeat next season, likely in Los Angeles. You can say what you want about John Scott, but he’s played 285 NHL games. That’s an accomplishment. A big one, to be respected. No doubt there are people trying to talk him out of this, and he’s not listening. Go to the event. Enjoy it for free. Smile and take selfies. That could be really something. I’d hate to see him embarrassed in the skills competition at all-star, or embarrassed in a three-on-three game because he won’t be able to do it. It will be painful to watch.

Here’s my quick thought on John Scott being in the NHL All-Star game (which should be held outdoors…). It is a joke and it does, in a way, disrespect a lot of the great players who earned the right to play in past NHL games. But, the All-Star game isn’t what it used to be, so at this point, it’s also kind of whatever. However, I don’t want to hear any fans complaining about NHL players mailing it in at the event anymore.  Fans voted John Scott into the game. Not players or management. Fans.

Fans have made the All-Star game even more of a joke. And I know this was probably some sort of civil disobedience type thing where fans thought they’d show the NHL what a joke the All-Star game has become by making it even more of a joke. But, like our mother’s all taught us; two wrongs don’t make a right. Having John Scott in the game isn’t going to make any NHLer take it more serious; they’re just going to be laughing along with you.

(But imagine if it was outdoors. That’d be cool, right?)

What do you think?