For Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who missed his third straight game Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden due to a six-game suspension for an ‘unacceptable’ altercation with the Penguins’ Tristan Jarry last week, Wednesday will come with a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
It’s the first (and what Marchand hopes is the only) step of the appeal process of that suspension, which was the longest of his career, and with the hope that he can jump right back into the mix for the Bruins.
But does he even have a chance?
Well, the very idea of Bettman reducing a suspension isn’t completely foreign. He reduced a six-game suspension for Jason Spezza down to four earlier this year, and has even reduced suspensions for repeat offenders in the past, with Raffi Torres in 2012 and Dan Carcillo in 2010. And Marchand and the Bruins believe they have a legitimate case.
If you ask the Bruins, they believe that Marchand’s three-game suspension for slew-footing the Canucks’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson was too steep of a penalty for a player who was no longer considered a repeat offender by the NHL’s logic. But the NHL made it known that Marchand will always have his history factored in when it comes to his punishments, and hit the star with a three-game ban for an incident that to that point in the season had come with a fine or a one-game suspension at the very most.
That, the Bruins believe, set Marchand up for an over-the-top punishment this time around.
“They don’t measure progress, which I’ve come to find out. It goes back to the last [suspension]. That’s when I really found it out,” Marchand said. “We believe the last suspension was very hefty. It was three games when it should’ve been one. Based on the fact that I’ve turned my game around, become a pretty good player in this league. But, again, like they said, you’re not going to escape the history part of it, which ultimately set me up for this one. This was a very deep suspension for these actions.”
With Marchand’s suspension halfway done, the best case scenario for the Bruins is that Bettman decides that three games is enough and allows Marchand to rejoin the team for their Thursday night head-to-head against the Islanders. Or maybe Bettman goes full Spezza suspension and decides that a six-to-four reduction is good enough for all involved.
It’s a more than reasonable ask to the Bruins when taking a deep look at the incident and Marchand’s recent history.
“They threw the book at me on the last one, which really doubled it up on this one,” Marchand added. “These plays were not going to injure Jarry. There was no potential injury on that play. He was very well protected. The fact that it was six games, it was based on history, not on the play. They make the decisions based on the way they see it, but we feel it was very steep.”
Marchand, for what it’s worth, doesn’t necessarily think that the league is out to get him or that George Parros doles out punishments or lets things go (see: the Garnet Hathaway hit that injured Marchand) based on his own personal feelings towards Marchand. He thinks that aspect of it is relatively black and white. But he does believe that the system as a whole needs work, and need to have more clarity by the time the NHL and NHLPA hammer out the next collective bargaining argument.
And Marchand doesn’t believe that he should be totally off the hook for what happened with Jarry. He just feels that in this instance, the punishment did not fit the crime and put him on the shelf for about three games too many.
“Was it stupid? Of course it was stupid,” Marchand admitted. “I’m not denying that. I absolutely should not have done it. But suspension-worthy? I don’t think so. That’s where in the moment, if I would’ve thought that I was getting suspended, I wouldn’t have done it. Especially if I thought I was gonna get six games.
Highlights: Rangers 2, Bruins 1 (shootout)
That’s the part of it that gets tough sometimes: to know where the line is. It changes for each player and from each night.”
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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.