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Kalman's Grades: At Left Wing, Bruins Must Decide If Marchand Remains Reliable Top-Six Forward

BOSTON (CBS) -- Is Brad Marchand a pest or a solid all-around player?

Unfortunately for the 26-year-old Bruins left winger, the answer was the former during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Worse, he was a pest both to Boston and its opponents.

After the Bruins exited the playoffs with a loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference second round to Montreal, Marchand had 18 penalty minutes and no goals to show for his efforts through 12 games. Marchand's playoff performance was a bitter end to an inconsistent season for him and his fellow left wingers in black and gold.

Here is how all of Boston's left wingers graded out for the 2013-14 season:

Milan Lucic

Contract status: Has two more years left on his contract with Boston to avoid doing something dumb on or off the ice he has to apologize for.

Grade: A-minus

With 21 even-strength goals as part of his 24-goal season, Lucic continued to forge his reputation as one of the premier power forwards in the NHL. He was once again a physical factor and found great chemistry with newcomer Jarome Iginla. Lucic was integral to the Bruins' elimination of Detroit in the first round with three goals. The Bruins needed more than just one empty-net goal from him against the Canadiens, but expecting him to carry the load for an entire playoff run would've been unfair. If he stops checking whether opponents are wearing a cup, he'll be fine for the future as a perennial 25-plus-goal scorer.

Brad Marchand

Contract status: Signed until Tyler Seguin demands the Dallas Stars move heaven, Earth and Jamie Benn to acquire his party buddy. (Just kidding, he has three more years left, plus a no-trade clause, on his deal with Boston.)

Grade: C

He was ineffective against Chicago and Toronto in the 2013 playoffs and he earned a pass for the way he played against New York and Pittsburgh. He got off to a rocky start in 2013-14 (four goals in the season's first three months) and he got a pass because he was strong enough the rest of the year to finish with 25 goals, he avoided league discipline all season and his playoff track record was pretty strong. Then he erased all the goodwill with a playoff run to forget. Marchand not only failed to produce, but he also took boneheaded penalties, and his yapping both inspired Montreal and even made Detroit a little more motivated than they otherwise should've been, considering the talent disparity for that series. The Bruins have to make some serious decisions about whether Marchand is a player they can continue to count on in their top six.

Chris Kelly

Contract status: Signed for two more years as one of the three or four players Bruins fans love to crap on even though he does everything he's supposed to do well.

Grade: B

Kelly played half the season at center until the Bruins decided to unleash Carl Soderberg as a center. Kelly, Soderberg and Loui Eriksson were really hitting their stride when Kelly went down with a season-ending back injury. Although he's not expected to score a ton, it's not too much to ask that a guy who scored 20 goals two years ago show a little more finish, especially when playing on a line with two high-caliber talents. Nonetheless, only a fool would overlook Kelly's integral role in the Bruins' penalty kill and his leadership. And he still tossed in nine goals in 57 games despite also missing a chunk of the season with a leg injury.

Jordan Caron

Contract status: Still only a restricted free agent because he won't turn 24 until November. Although he's said all the right things, he has to be praying to the god of first-round picks the Bruins let him free to find playing time elsewhere.

Grade: D

It should always be noted that Caron did not pick himself 25th overall in 2009; the Bruins were the ones that overreached for him. Nonetheless, Caron's development into even a serviceable top-12 forward has been slow as molasses. Caron gets credit for being able to contribute even a little bit, including a big goal in the playoffs against Detroit, considering his status as a 13th forward that only played in 35 games in the regular season. But any hopes that he would someday at least give the Bruins a cheaper, younger alternative to some of the players they have in their bottom six were dashed this season.

Justin Florek

Contract status: Restricted free agent who will probably be back and has to be hoping the Bruins commit to a youth movement in their bottom six.

Grade: B-plus

You can't argue with the results this grinder got in his brief stint in the NHL. He had one goal in four regular-season games and then scored a huge goal to get the Bruins going against Detroit in the playoffs. Florek should be a contender for a bottom-six spot as long as he continues to be fearless using his size as a net-front presence and heavy forechecker.

Daniel Paille

Contract: Entering his contract year, during which he'll try to convince someone he can be more than a Merlot Line speedster.

Grade: B-minus

Three times he got dinged this season, and three times Paille said his head injury was no big deal. So his nine goals in 72 games weren't caused by injury, just by his inability to finish. That's always been the story with Paille. He had one point (a goal) in seven playoff games, and his return to the penalty kill did nothing to slow down Montreal's power-play barrage in the second round. Without a NTC, Paille is one of those guys the Bruins will have to consider moving in order to get younger and cheaper.

This is the fourth installment in a six-part series grading how Bruins players performed over the course of the 2013-14 season. You can read the other report cards:

Right defensemen
Left defensemen

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for and also contributes to and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.


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