When Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand appeared to slam his stick into the head of Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald's head on Sunday, the hockey world had a collective sigh and muttered "here we go again."
He's like two different players in the same pugnacious body. Marchand has 84 points in 64 games this season, the kind of performance that has sparked MVP talk and has helped the Bruins push to the top of the Eastern Conference. He's also been suspended twice in the past 12 months, including a five-game ban this season for an elbow to the head of Marcus Johansson of the New Jersey Devils, and fined twice since Jan. 2017, including supplemental discipline for a dangerous trip on Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings.
For his career, Marchand has been suspended six times, losing 75 games and surrendering over $1.7 million.
But the NHL Department of Player Safety didn't suspend him for the cross-check on MacDonald, opting instead to fine Marchand $5,000 for the incident that occurred at 18:55 of the second period in the Flyers' 4-3 overtime win:
Brad Marchand cross checks Andrew MacDonald in the face. pic.twitter.com/bQa3DiRS8I
- Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) April 1, 2018
Why a fine and not a suspension?
According to the Department of Player Safety, they felt the incident itself didn't rise to that status, that the cross-check didn't connect with MacDonald as badly as the video might indicate, for whatever reason -- good fortune on MacDonald's part, or Marchand pulling up at the last moment. And the brunt of the impact was to his visor.
The way the department approaches repeat, repeat, repeat (etc.) offenders like Marchand isn't to automatically suspend them for acts that appear to cross the line. Instead, the history of a player's supplemental discipline is factored in during the punitive phase of the ruling.
Where this philosophy gets a little tricky is in the realm of intent. It's obvious Marchand snaps in that moment, and it's obvious that he's making an attempt to cross-check an opponent in the head. If the aim of the Department of Player Safety is to change behavior as much as it's to appropriately punish injurious plays, should a play like this really just result in a fine because Marchand's attempt to injure was botched?
Wouldn't at least a one-game "check yourself" suspension here have been warranted?
We'd say this is the most baffling moment involving Brad Marchand and supplemental discipline this season, but that would be a disservice to his being the sanctioned court jester of the NHL All-Star Weekend while serving a suspension for concussing an opponent who ended up missing 31 games.