Brad Marchand Is Right; NHL’s Crackdown On Faceoff Violations Are “A Joke”

Boston Bruins

Credit: Sportsnet

Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand was absolutely right in calling out the league wide crackdown on faceoff violations in the NHL preseason thus far.

“This faceoff rule is an absolute joke,” Marchand said prior to his team’s 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night. “That’s how you ruin the game of hockey, by putting that in there. They’re gonna have to do something about that because we can’t play this year like that.”

The Bruins had been called for one “faceoff violation” in their 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens in the preseason opener Monday in Quebec City, but league wide there were eight total faceoff infractions called that night, and like players, coaches, media and fans, Marchand was frustrated. Part of that frustration though wasn’t just stemming from this harsh reinforcement of the faceoff rules that were already in place, but also the ever-changing rules of the game, that may have good intentions but many times backfire.

“It seems like every year they’re making huge changes, and I know they’re trying to add a little more offense to the game and make it a little more exciting, but you don’t want to ruin the game, and that’s frustrating for everyone,” Marchand continued. “I know a lot of people that I’ve spoken to over the last few days have stopped watching games because it’s so been so annoying dealing with the new changes. You can make changes and try to better the game, but you can’t put [rules] in that ruin it.

“You’re also taking a lot of skill away from the centerman by limiting what they’re able to do,” Marchand added. “Being a centerman is a skill and guys make a really good living at it. You’re completely taking away the skill of that. We might as well start throwing D in there to take draws if this keeps up.”

When Marchand’s comments quickly spread through the NHL Twitterverse Tuesday afternoon and while there were some who labeled him a whiner and chided the Bruins’ pesky winger, the general consensus was that Marchand was dead on with his criticism. It was refreshing to hear a player speak up for the fans and the game that every year, seems to improve in some areas but also lose it’s roots and gritty passionate parts. That’s something Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy – while respecting the league’s efforts to minimize cheating at and around the faceoff dot – referenced as well.

“There’s obviously an initiative out there to kind of get rid of all the shenanigans that go on before the draw,” Cassidy acknowledged. “[There is] certainly some gamesmanship there that we’re gonna have to find, and I think the fine line of allowing guys to at least get in there, because it is the original battle of every play, so there’s gonna be a little bit of digging in. So define that area where we get the game going and you’re not constantly tossing guys out and restarting, I think is important. [Monday] I’m not sure if some of the guys even knew why they were getting thrown out, it happened so quick. But that’s their initiative and we’re going to have to live by it.”

Marchand however – as many on Twitter expressed – doesn’t think players should have to live with the way things are right now and as a winger, feels helpless when it comes to being there for his center.

“Basically you have to be a statue. You can’t move,” Marchand said when asked if it’s still possible to provide assistance to the centermen. “I think there was even a play [Monday] where there was a penalty given and it was on 4-on-4 before the [first] penalty even started. That’s just a joke. I don’t know how you suspect guys to step back, guys are excited to get in there and try to help out your centerman.”

When asked if maybe there has been a lack of communication between the players and those making NHL’s decision makers – which is the NHL Competition committee (Players, Managers and Coaches) and the Board Of Governors – Marchand said “yeah I think a little bit.”

After yours truly tweeted that, colleague and longtime and respected hockey analyst Darren Dreger chimed in and he, Marchand and I engaged in some good hockey banter regarding the topic.

To which Marchand replied. …

and then this. …

and finally this. …

First of all, kudos to Marchand for not only being vocal about the topic, but then taking it to Twitter and engaging media and subsequently fans too. A pet peeve of this hockey scribe is the lack of insightful follow up by so many players after they voice their displeasure about a call, rule, etc. Marchand not only opened himself up for a potential scolding or even fine from league headquarters, but he stood by his opinion both with the media and fans and backed it up with valid reasons and more importantly his passion for the game.

All that being said, the bottom line is that Marchand is right! This crackdown so far is an absolute joke bit the problem is, there’s nothing really funny about it. This is just another example of the aforementioned lack of communication amongst all involved and failure to get real input from the players and likely in some cases, of the players to give it. The state of the NHL overall right now is in a good place. The game has made some major strides since the competition committee was formed in 2005. But in the last few years, it seems that more attempts at improvement have been made with too many extremes and not enough gradual alterations. This faceoff violations crackdown is a perfect example of that and Marchand shouldn’t be criticized as a complainer but rather applauded as a player that truly cares for the game and wants it to evolve but also maintain it’s identity.

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Featured Image Credit: By Lisa Gansky (Flickr: IMG_7786) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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