The Bruins are without a captain after the retirement of Patrice Bergeron. But if you took in Boston’s first “captain’s practice” on Tuesday and listened to him speak afterward, it was hard to miss the vibe that Brad Marchand just might be the captain-in-waiting.
Not that Marchand, now the longest serving Bruin, was about to publicly lobby for the job.
“It’s not something I really think about too much. Obviously it’s a really big honor to be in the leadership group in this organization when you look at the guys who have been there before. But we’ve always done it collectively as a group,” said Marchand after an hour-plus session at Warrior Ice Arena. “So regardless of who wears it, it’s a collective thing. Even guys guys without a letters have stepped up through the years. When you lose Bergy and (David Krejci) and that leadership, it’s got to come from the group, and not one certain guy or a couple of guys. It’s got to be from a big group. So that’s what we’re going to rely on this year.”
That sounds like something a captain would say.
What exactly B’s management and coaching staff plan to do with the captaincy remains to be seen. They could always follow Marchand’s words and name a leadership group instead of pinning a “C” on someone’s chest. Teams have occasionally done that.
But Marchand seems like the most logical choice to take the torch from Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Charlie Coyle wasn’t specifically nominating Marchand for captain, but he did enumerate his captain-like traits.
“He’s always had that leadership where his work ethic is just top of the charts – every time he’s in the gym, behind closed doors, on the ice, of course. And then even in the locker room when he speaks up when he needs to,” said Coyle. “If he has to set the example in a given situation, he’s always brought that, even when Chara and Bergeron and all those guys were here. He’s always done his part very well. And he’s only gotten better at it over the years, too. He’s a great guy to look up to. We all know what kind of player he is. He’s an unbelievable hockey player. But his leadership, too, is very, very good, and has been. He’s a guy you watch and try to emulate and take bits and pieces of how he does things.”
Whether or not Marchand gets the “C,” he knows perhaps better than anyone the void that needs to be filled with the loss of Bergeron. If there was anything that Bergeron imparted to Marchand, it’s an appreciation of getting to go to the rink every day – and the responsibility it brings.
“One of the big things he talked about was gratitude and accountability, just treating every day like it’s a gift and being thankful to be here and have the opportunity to play in this organization, this team,” said Marchand. “You hear it so often when guys come from different groups or they leave and go somewhere else, how much they miss being here and how lucky they are to be here now. These careers fly by quickly. You’re going to miss it every day when it’s gone. You never know it’s going to be your last day in the league. It’s just being grateful, and with that comes doing everything in your power to make the most of your opportunity and to not waste a day.”
Bergeron’s departure will be felt on and off the ice for Marchand. Since he was a rookie in 2011, Marchand has not had any other full-time centerman, other than on the occasion of a Bergeron injury. That long-running partnership was quite unique.
Coach Jim Montgomery said recently he expects to start with a line of Marchand, Coyle and Jake DeBrusk, who saw some time together in the playoffs when Bergeron was injured. Whether Coyle or Pavel Zacha is Marchand’s centerman, the 35-year-old left wing expects an adjustment that must be met with a lot of work.
“The biggest thing that we have to do is make sure we don’t try to play the same way Bergy and I played,” said Marchand. “If I’m playing with Coyle or playing with Zacha … we have to build our own chemistry from day one. I’ve got to find what strengths either one of those guys have and play within that and they have to do the same with me. It took years to build what Bergy and I had and whoever was with us in that point in time. It’s just something we have to work on every day in practice, watch video. We’re going to have to build throughout the season, next season and the year after that. It will be a work in progress. The big thing is those two guys have a great opportunity ahead of them to play big minutes and take a big step.”
Last season, Marchand was playing catch-up for most of it after undergoing double hip surgery. But with a summer of regular training – he did mention he had one hiccup in his training, though he didn’t specify it – Marchand feels whole again.
“That’s what I was excited about this summer, having a year to get back to the condition I was in before,” said Marchand. “If you miss six months, you’re behind, no matter who you are. I didn’t feel normal until about March. I was still in pain until March, which is expected with a surgery like that. I feel really good right now. My hips feel great. I trained a lot this summer, I trained well, so I’m happy. It was the best decision for my career and I’ll never regret it, but it’s good to get a good summer under my belt.”
And now Marchand could be the guy who leads the Bruins into their next era.
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