It used to be that Brad Marchand was our little secret, the new kid who the rest of the league would never hear about other than when Bruins fans would gleefully inform "this kid is gonna be something, he's all heart."
Two seasons, a Stanley Cup ring, rising goal totals, and the disposal of his shirt for a few nights and the secret is out.
For the most part Marchand's ascent into the limelight has been directly tied to his skill on the ice. This is the guy who started out as fourth-line grinder to top-six stud and this season was no different.
Marchand finished his sophomore season with 28 goals and 27 assists, that's 55 points in 76 games. That's a 14 point increase from his 41 last year in 77 games. He accomplished that riding shotgun with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, which combined to form one of the better lines in hockey for stretches of the season.
Defensively Marchand was no slouch either, finishing the season a +31 on the year good for fifth in the league. Again, he benefitted from having the Selke winner as his center but unlike Seguin Marchand was no stranger to the penalty kill and the more daunting defensive assignments.
All in all Marchand did exactly what he needed to do, prove that his magical rookie year was more than a fluke. He did so convincingly but that brings along a new challenge itself. We, and the rest of the league, know what he his and what he's capable of. He doesn't have anything to hide behind anymore.
While as a whole Marchand had quite the respectable season he was not without his flaws. Marchand was prone to streakiness, his goals coming in batches, most notably in the playoffs where managed only one goal in the seven games against the Washington Capitals.
There was also his five game suspension for the clip of Sami Salo during the Vancouver rematch, as well as some not so flattering dives in the playoffs. His discretions introduced us to Claude Julien's concept of "Good rat" and "Bad rat" when it comes to the lovable rouge's actions on the ice.
As catchy as the quote was the fact is fans had to worry about whether Marchand knew where his boundaries are. There is no doubt that his teammates will keep him grounded, but for a 23 year old kid some bumps on the road should probably still be expected.
At the end of the day Marchand had a successful season, there is still a lot of room for improvement but the biggest thing now is realizing that the fan base now has expectations for the winger, and they are certainly not small.
2011-12 grade: B