It happened right before my eyes, and I barely even noticed. Sometime during the late course of last season, Todd "Stone Hands" "Leprechaun" Marchant magically transformed from a dude with an expiring contract that I was happy to see come off the books to a near-indispensable must-re-sign kind of guy. All of a sudden, instead of asking, "I wonder how Todd Marchant will manage without the Ducks next year?", the question turned quickly to "How can the Ducks manage without Marchant?", and fortunately for this writer, neither question will need to be answered right away. Marchant re-inked for two years this summer -- a cool million this season and $1.25M the next.
It's not that Marchant's last deal -- signed with Columbus at just north of $2.5M annually -- was that terrible. It was a tad pricey for a guy who really had no scoring hands to speak of (more on the "Stone Hands" nickname after the jump), but Marchant was still a very reliable and versatile player -- during his contract, he did play time on all four of Anaheim's lines, though his best fit was legitimizing a non-scoring line. Still, arguably Marchant's contract may have been the worst that the Ducks ended up carrying during their cup season (which says more about the overall savviness of Burke's contracts back then than a slap in Marchant's face), and I've generally regarded Marchant's salary as the natural cost of unloading Sergei Fedorov's mammoth contract five games after the lockout ended.
Sidenote #1: You really can't move a guy like Sergei Fedorov anymore for peanuts -- GMs have caught on to the notion that excessive salary is a burden in a cap league. I think the Fedorov trade could be listed #1 in the "Best moves Brian Burke made for Anaheim" (followed closely by Pronger, Niedermayers, and Selanne), but there's a caveat in that it was an inexperienced league -- if GMs knew any better, that would never have been available for Burke.
Anyways, I'm sidetracking -- back to Marchant. What really elevated Todd Marchant this season in particular was the departure of long-time stopping-center and Sleek fave Sammy Pahlsson, plus the subsequent departures of Travis Moen and now Rob Niedermayer, all defensive staples during the cup year. Suddenly, the cupboard of penalty killing forwards seemed awfully bare, because if there's one thing I can say about the top-six of Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Selanne, Koivu, and Lupul -- none of them are ideal fits for the penalty kill. And while there still are some relatively new PK options in Brown, Nokelainen, and Carter, they're all pretty raw -- Marchant now provides a cheap, experienced, and trustworthy option to stabilize the stopper forwards.
With Anaheim's glut of RW talent, it's possible that next season Carlyle takes a step away from his previous model of a true "shut down" line and attempts to put scoring on three lines -- that's what I did with my XBox test lineup, anyways. But that's OK -- Marchant played well with Lupul before the (first) Lupul-Pronger trade, as the Leprechaun is more than capable of backchecking for two, and for all his scoring faults is still capable of dishing the puck to a shooter. Or perhaps Bobby Ryan could work his way down -- B. Ry has shown an ability to elevate lower line production. We shall see, I guess.
|2008 - Todd Marchant||72||5||13||18||-2||34||0||2||0||0||101||5.0|
Sidenote #2: One thing I'm not mentioning in this post is the between-period contribution of young Timmy Marchant. As I grow older and more cynical, the routine of the between-period-interview gets more and more tedious -- I can't stand repeated coachspeak and cliches, especially as the interview itself gets more and more scripted. Thank god for two more years of Timmy's kiddy interviews -- that's definitely an added asset in Todd's re-signing.
On the nickname "Stone Hands": Some of my hockey pals like to give me shit about calling Marchant "Stone Hands" while rooting for him, but c'mon. Including the postseason, Todd scored only 6 goals in 85 games last season. In his Anaheim career, he's potted 25 goals in 233 games. It's certainly not the same player from my X-Box -- video game programmers never have been able to effectively capture Marchant's lack of finish, as on paper he seemingly has the tools to be a goal-scorer.
The real-life goals "Stone Hands" scores are infrequent but crazy, though -- here's one he potted last year against the Ottawa Senators (remember back two years ago when they made me lose sleep?):
To summarize: veteran defenseman Jason Smith takes an aerial puck from between the faceoff circles and his blueline and attempts to drop it towards his stick -- a play he's made about a million times before. Interfering with that basic play is the tip of Todd Marchant's poking stick (and all its inherent leprechaun charm), which lobs that puck up on a magical invisible path where it floats uninterruptedly into the net, undetectable at all by motionless goaltender Alex Auld. It's truly a once-in-a-bazillion fluke play, a special moment between the gods and mankind where Father Fate intervenes into mortal affairs and proudly proclaims to the hockey world: "Against all calculable odds, Todd Marchant will score a goal this shift."
Then again, here's another one of his six goals, scored in the triple-overtime of G2 in Detroit. One of the few times I can remember where a Marchant shot went into the net without pinballing off at least two players first (or as I call it, the "Dipenta Special").
Marchant joins a special group of former Ducks with that goal -- Paul Kariya, Steve Rucchin, Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, and now Marchant have all potted sudden-death goals against the always-hated Wings. That's becoming quite a "Who's who" listing of monumental players in Anaheim Ducks history -- somebody ought to start a shrine.
So yes, in real life Todd's a miserable finisher, but that doesn't mean he's not a very valuable player. Like Pahlsson, Moen, and Robbie N. before him, his contribution is rarely found in the "Goals For" column, though when they do occur, Marchant's goals are usually quite special. In a sense, I use the term "Stone Hands" almost affectionately -- it keeps my expectations sufficiently low for when Todd comes in on a breakaway or is staring at a gaping net with a puck on his stick (two guaranteed signs Marchant won't be potting a goal), and helps remind me that Todd earns his keep quite valiantly on the other side of the puck.
* * *
I've been writing Ducks-themed posts on Battle of California for some three years now, and one very-long-running gag is in my game predictions -- even though it makes no sense, I predict a goal for Sammy Pahlsson nearly every time. It's a good luck charm, sort of, but also an ironic tribute to a guy who's value is never found in the goal column -- the nights when he scores zero goals he still might be the most valuable player on the ice (plus it's a tribute to Sacamano at Battle of Alberta, who had a similar goal-predicting obsession with Radek Dvorak). Well, now there's a post-Pahlsson vacancy in my mock-prediction gameplan, much like there was a post-Pahlsson vacancy on Anaheim's stopper line late last year.
Could Leprechaun Marchant be the guy to fill both those voids? I guess we'll have to wait until the first gameday post this year to find out (I can't commit now anyways -- it only works if it's an on-the-spot gut choice). At any rate, I'm damn glad that Stone Hands re-upped for cheap. However the lineup works itself out, he's definitely going to be a key component next year, both a keystone penalty-killing forward and bottom-line legitimizer. Plus I'm definitely looking forward to the zaniness of the next Marchant goal, whenever Father Fate determines it to be. Go get 'em, Leprechaun.