Neely: Marchand penalty was too harsh

Boston Bruins president Cam Neely on Tuesday defended forward Brad Marchand, saying the five-game suspension he was given for his low hit on the Canucks’ Sami Salo on Saturday was too harsh because, from his perspective, there was no malice behind it.

Marchand was assessed a five-minute major and given a game misconduct for clipping Salo at 18:47 of the second period Saturday, ducking just as the two collided on the ice so instead of a shoulder-to-shoulder hit, Marchand hit Salo’s legs and flipped him over.

“I personally believe with Brad that it was more of an instinctual move. …,” Neely said in his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub. “From my perspective I don’t think Brad’s the type of player that’s going to go out there and intentionally try to hurt somebody.”

Neely wasn’t surprised Marchand was suspended for the hit (Neely called it more of a “duck” than a “hit”), but he thought the second-year player would get a couple of games, not five.

Despite the suspension, Neely said he was not going to ask Marchand to change his game, just make smarter decisions at times.

“There certainly is an element to his game that makes him a successful player in this league. We have to be careful with trying to put the reins on him too much,” Neely said. “There are certainly areas where he’s crosses the line. The league has addressed that on a couple of occasions this year. They’ve addressed it again. Brad’s just got to make better decisions out there.”

Neely also took a shot at Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who said Marchand “plays to hurt players” and that “someday he’s going to get it.”

“It’s irresponsible, to be honest with you,” Neely said of Vigneault’s comments. “I think the league has had enough issues in recent history where coaches shouldn’t be making comments like that, especially about other players and in that fashion. If the league hasn’t already had a conversation with him, I would expect something like that to draw the attention of the league and to have a conversation with their coach.”