The debate over who is currently the NHL’s best player is one that can change as quickly as the weather in March. Recency bias places Connor McDavid at #1 on many lists, while those who admire consistency are not ready to pull the crown from the head of Sidney Crosby. Then you have goal/point machines like Nikita Kucherov, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin getting some write-in votes. Meanwhile in Toronto, Maple Leafs fans will tell you it’s a tie between Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Now, determining who is the NHL’s best current player is largely a subjective exercise. Some would argue that no one influences the game more than the most prolific point-getters. Others, however, believe that to build a great team, you start from the net out with an all-world goalie and a couple highly touted two-way defensemen.
For me, I most connect with the players who do just about everything well – players who can put up the points, be trusted defensively, handle himself physically, and be able to engage in some form of psychological warfare. The last time I looked, Marchand is one of the few (but, definitely the best) checking off all those boxes.
As of March 12, Marchand sat tied for 11th in the league scoring race with 82 points (28 goals, 54 assists) in 68 games. He is the top point collector for the Bruins by a wide margin.
Marchand’s also racked up 90 penalty minutes, 36 minutes more than anyone else in the top 15 in NHL scoring. He also plays nearly 20 minutes a night and is used mightily in both powerplay (29 PP points) and penalty kill (tied for third with 5 PK points) situations.
While Marchand’s offensive numbers are solid, they by no means position him above the likes of Kucherov, McDavid, Kane, and some others. However, it’s his overall game that does. Unlike these stars, Marchand plays with a decisive edge on and off the ice. Marchand physically and mentally imposes his will on an opponent, inspiring bouts of frustration and retaliation.
Yes, people have taken issue with Marchand’s occasional lick or kiss of an opponent on the ice, but there’s no doubt that he’s a world class chirper capable of backing up his words with physicality. Does he cross the line now and then? Of course, but that’s what an amazing agitator does.
Off the ice, Marchand’s busy planting the seed on social media that rival Mitch Marner should make $12 million annually – which would totally screw with the Leafs’ salary cap situation. He claims to be paying Marner a compliment, but you and I both know he’d love to mess up how his division rival’s roster is constructed.
I know Marchand is a pretty polarizing individual and not exactly viewed as the prototypical franchise player. That said, his specific set of skills allows him to stand head and shoulders above the competition – I would take him on my team in a heartbeat.
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