Maybe Brad Marchand is not Mike Babcock's type of player.
Maybe the Boston Bruins left wing is too risky and suffers from the occasional bout of disorderly conduct, like when he was suspended for three games in late December and missed the Winter Classic outdoor game for a slew foot on Ottawa Senators defenceman Mark Borowiecki.
Maybe the 27-year-old Marchand is prone to inconsistency, like the current eight-games-without-a-goal slump he's currently going through.
But there's no denying Marchand is quietly enjoying his finest and most productive season yet, and that should put him under consideration for one of the final four forward spots on Canada's Babcock-coached World Cup team, which will be named in full on June 1.
With two weeks remaining in the NHL's regular season, here are the top Canadian goal scorers:
- Jamie Benn (Dallas) — 37 goals in 76 games.
- Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) — 36 goals in 75 games.
- Brad Marchand (Boston) — 34 goals in 71 games.
- Tyler Seguin (Dallas) — 33 goals in 72 games.
- Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh) — 32 goals in 74 games.
Marchand is the only member of that group who was not named to Canada's preliminary roster. His Bruins linemate, Patrice Bergeron, who did make the team, has witnessed first-hand Marchand's top-drawer season.
"The biggest thing has been his compete level," Bergeron says. "Every game he has prepared himself to battle in all areas of the game. When you do that, good things happen."
Specifically, Bergeron says Marchand has improved his positioning in all three zones, and that has allowed him to be at his best offensively this season. The Bruins captain also noted that, despite his linemate's transgression before New Year's Day, Marchand has grown up on and off the ice.
Learning from the best
For his part, Marchand credits Bergeron. The latter is considered one of the best leaders in the game — not to mention a top two-way player — and has been a role model for Marchand.
"Everyone, the older they get, the more they learn, should get better and play the right way," Marchand says. "But I learned from Patrice, watched how he carried himself on and off the ice. He's a great role model to follow. "
The biggest change for Marchand is lifestyle. He trains more diligently in the summer. He makes sure he eats better and gets plenty of rest.
Don't confuse Marchand's on-ice feistiness with the way he conducts himself off the ice. He always has been a thoughtful person, and those who know him like to tell the story about his day with the Stanley Cup back in late August 2011 in Halifax.
In December 2008, Bruins Eastern Canada scout Donnie Matheson passed away unexpectedly at age 55. He was a family friend of the Marchands and coached Brad's father in junior.
Matheson also worked for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and provided Marchand with an opportunity to play in Moncton. Marchand helped the Wildcats win the 2005-06 QMJHL President's Cup, and no doubt Matheson had some influence a few weeks later when the Bruins selected Marchand in the third round (71st overall) of the NHL draft.
As he addressed a large crowd in Halifax that day with the Stanley Cup, Marchand surprised Matheson's widow, Jane. He called her to the stage and presented her with some memorabilia from the successful Stanley Cup run.
"Donnie did a lot for me," Marchand says. "I wanted to recognize him for what he did for my career and how much he meant to our family."
2nd chance at Team Canada
Boston's Claude Julien, the only head coach Marchand has had at the NHL level, has been good for Marchand's career, too. Julien just happens to be on Babcock's Canadian team coaching staff. But there is plenty of hockey to be played before that decision is made, Julien said.
"He's had a good year," the Bruins coach says. "He's taken on more of a leadership role by the way he's played on the ice and in the dressing room.
"He's hit a bit of a dry spell in the last five or six games, but when he breaks out he always does it when you need him in big games."
Marchand has been in this position before. After a strong 2013 playoff run, when the Bruins fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in the championship final, Babcock and the Canadian Olympic management team invited Marchand to its summer camp in Calgary.
But he started slow the following season with only one goal in his first 14 games, killing his chances of making the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.
"I didn't have a great start to the year," Marchand says. "Maybe I felt too much pressure because I felt I had to impress them. But I was able to finish with 25 goals that year.
"I learned from that experience."