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The big question after Brad Marchand’s latest incident: why?

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Just when you think the pest days are behind him, Marchand frustratingly reverts to his old ways.

New Jersey Devils Vs Boston Bruins At TD Garden Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

“You just gotta hope he’ll learn from this one.”

-Bruins fans in 2012 after Brad Marchand got five games for clipping Sami Salo

Hmmm...

“You just gotta hope he’ll learn from this one.”

-Bruins fans in 2015 after Brad Marchand got two games for slew-footing Derrick Brassard

Uhh...

“You know, you just gotta hope he’ll learn from this one and leave the dumb stuff behind.”

-Bruins fans later in 2015 after Brad Marchand got three games for clipping Mark Borowiecki

Okay, we ge—

“He’ll learn from this mistake, dial it back and put this stuff behind him.”

-Bruins fans in 2017 after Brad Marchand got suspended for two games for spearing Jake Dotchin

ALRIGHT, WE GET I—

“You know what, he’ll learn from this and move forward. It’s time to leave the antics behind and focus on being a good player.”

-Bruins fans tonight after Brad Marchand was suspended for five games for elbowing Marcus Johansson

It looks worse when you see it all lined up, doesn’t it?

To fans of 30 NHL teams, Brad Marchand is known as a dirty player. For fans of one NHL team, Brad Marchand is an elite talent who can’t seem to shake his pest past.

After his latest misdeed, there’s been plenty of talk: is it too harsh? Too lenient? Was it not even a penalty?

Really, though, there’s only one question that needs to be asked: why does Brad Marchand keep doing this stuff?

It’s a frustrating question, because there really isn’t a good answer.

When Marchand first broke into the league, he was known as a pest, an agitator, an annoying guy who talked too much and got under everyone’s skin. That was his game, what got him to the big leagues in the first place.

Back then, you had to accept it for what it was. “That’s his role,” people would say.

Now? What the hell is he thinking?

Marchand is an All Star. He represented Canada at the World Cup, and was the tournament’s leading goalscorer. He’s scored 20+ goals in four consecutive seasons, and has scored 35+ in the past two. He’s a mainstay on the best line in the entire league.

So why can’t he leave all of this garbage in the past?

There are some incidents from earlier in Marchand’s career that fans could try to argue with a somewhat straight face. The Salo one? “He has the right to try to avoid a hit” The Borowiecki clip? “He wasn’t even looking, he was trying to turn around.”

But the latest stuff is just pure, unadulterated stupidity.

WHY does a borderline 40-goal scorer have to stick a guy in the jewels in the middle of a desperate push for playoff position?

WHY does an All Star forward have to throw his elbow out at the head of an opposing player when he could have just hit the brakes?

Marchand doesn’t need to do this stuff anymore. He doesn’t need to get under the opponent’s skin to be an effective player. He doesn’t need to goad a guy into a penalty to get ice time.

So why does he do it? No one knows but him.

He’s not a kid anymore, so you can’t chalk it up to youthful indiscretions. He’s not surrounded by goons, so it’s not the environment. He is, by most accounts, a stand-up family man off the ice, so it’s not just “how he is.”

Marchand has been in the league for almost a decade. To quote my own former thoughts, “he should know better by now.”

A suspension in 2016 cost him a spot in the Winter Classic, a huge factor in the Bruins getting embarrassed on national TV. A suspension last year could have had an impact on the Bruins’ playoff seeding, and definitely cost him a shot at the first 40-goal season of his career.

And after all that, he still hasn’t learned.

It’s beyond frustrating at this point. A guy who is leading his team in goals and is widely recognized as one of the better two-way players in the league shouldn’t be throwing Macho Man-esque flying elbows.

What can be done? It’s hard to say. At this point, it’s probably better to just face the truth: this is how Marchand is, and the Bruins are going to have to take the good with the bad.

Maybe Patrice Bergeron can get through to him this time. Maybe Bruce Cassidy will have more success than Claude Julien. Maybe Zdeno Chara can take him out for a walk to feed some pigeons and discuss, you know, cutting the crap.

Marchand is a better player than these shenanigans indicate. For the Bruins’ sake, it’s time he starts acting like it.

You just just have to hope he’ll learn from this, and leave the dumb stuff behind.

Say, that sounds familiar...