Brad Marchand finished sixth in the NHL in points last season and added 12 points in 10 playoff games, which is pretty good by basically any measure. But according to Marchand, he has even more to give.
Marchand underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia this offseason, and it turns out that injury may have been affecting him more than anyone realized.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Marchand said it was something that had been bothering him for a couple years and that it got to a point last season where he was constantly in pain and only able to play at about 80%.
“It was a long time coming,” Marchand said. “It’s been two and a half years it’s been bugging me. It’s affected not just my on-ice, but my off-ice training. I haven’t been able to sprint or run in years. It was an issue with my left side, my left groin, my left ab that was bugging me. Then this past season, it was both sides. So it would go from one day all four would be sore, then just my left side, then that would feel better and my right side would act up. It got to the point where I was only able to play at like 80 percent. I couldn’t take a full stride. A lot of times I was taking days off. I think in the playoffs I barely practiced, because I needed every day off to recover, because I was in a lot of pain.
“It bugged me every single day. It was a really easy decision to do it. It was something I was going to do regardless of what happened this season. Having the four or five months off, it worked out perfectly for me, but I was having that surgery regardless. I needed it big-time. And now after going through it, I can’t believe I waited two years to do it. I was hoping it was going to go away. The last thing any player wants to do is have a surgery that’s going to take four months to recover, but seeing the difference in how I feel on the ice and what was holding me back, it’s night and day.”
Marchand was on the ice Monday for the first day of Bruins training camp, though he only got in a partial practice as he works his way back. He said he hopes to do a little more each day and is aiming to be ready for Boston’s season-opener next Thursday, but understands he can’t overdo things right off the bat.
“I plan to be. That’s what we’re shooting for,” Marchand said. “We don’t want to miss a game. Every game, especially with a shorter season, is so important. Today was the first time I’ve been able to skate with the guys for an extended period of time, so it was a pretty good workload compared to what I’ve had. Last thing we want to do is get out there first day of camp and get hurt trying to do too much. I’m going to push every day to try to do a little bit more, but we’ll see how much they want to pull me back. … They’re going to be more cautious just because the last thing they need is to get hurt and miss another week. If we take it slow we’ll be good to go for that opener, so either way it’s exciting.”
Asked about Marchand’s “80%” comment, coach Bruce Cassidy sounded excited about getting a 20% better Marchand.
“Well, then he’s going to be a 20 percent better player hopefully for us if that’s the case. I thought he was pretty good for us at 80 percent,” Cassidy joked. “If this gets him quicker recovery or a longer stride or whatever the issue was where he lost the 20 percent, then that’s obviously the added benefit for him.”
Meanwhile, Marchand’s usual right wing, David Pastrnak, will not be ready for opening night after undergoing a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair in September. It sounds like Pastrnak might be a little ahead of the initial mid-February timetable, but he’s not ready just yet.
Jack Studnicka got the first crack at the first-line right wing role on Monday. It sounds like Cassidy will try a few different guys there, but Studnicka could have the inside track. The 21-year-old is a natural center, but played on the wing in the bubble over the summer and showed some promising flashes there.
Cassidy mentioned the possibility of moving Ondrej Kase or Craig Smith up, too, but said he wants both of them to build some chemistry with their projected long-term linemates -- Kase with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line, and Smith with Charlie Coyle and either Nick Ritchie or Anders Bjork on the third line.
“He’ll be competing for a place in the lineup,” Cassidy said of Studnicka. “Right now I played him on the right side in Pastrnak’s spot. David will not be for the start of the year, so we’re going to look at different people there. That’s where he was today. Obviously he’s more of a natural centerman, but we’re pretty healthy and strong down the middle, so he might have to start the year with us or his career, which he did a little bit last year, on the wing at times. That’s where it’s going. We’ll mix him around. We’ve also used Anders Bjork there in the past. Could Kase or Smith go up there? Yes. Those guys haven’t been here a long time, so we’re trying to build chemistry with who we feel they’ll probably be with full-time later, so we have to balance that.”