Only three days after being eliminated from playoff contention on April 23, the Boston Bruins and General Manager Don Sweeney named Bruce Cassidy the NHL organization’s 28 head coach.
After firing Claude Julien on February 7, after nine and a half seasons with the team, the Bruins promoted Cassidy, formerly an assistant, to interim head coach. Cassidy has been an assistant for the Bruins since the beginning of the 2016 season, and had been a coach for Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, for the past eight seasons — five as head coach.
Since taking the helm in Boston, Cassidy lead the team to their first playoff berth in three years with a record of 18-8-1. Although he and the Bruins lost in the quarterfinals to the Ottawa Senators, four games to two, the series not only showed a newly improved style of play, but also a much needed insight — thanks to a large part of the active playoff roster being first time playoff players — to what is to come with the future of the organization.
“Cassidy did really well for what he was given, a failing team on the verge of missing the playoffs another time in a row. He turned the team around, and into something that the fans cannot wait to watch next year,” said WHS Girls Hockey captain, senior Frankie Bonanno.
Cassidy’s style of play is much different than what Julien enforced. Where Julien used a more defensive style with most shots coming from the perimeter, Cassidy was all about crashing the net and firing as many shots as possible — wherever and whenever. Although the team did not make a deep run in the postseason, the Bruins managed to significantly better their power play percentage as well as total amount of goals. In Cassidy’s 27 games as interim head coach, the Bruins scored 77 total goals; whereas, with Julien, only 60 goals in the same amount of time.
“Bruce has done a tremendous job,” said WHS Boys Hockey forward Cam Martin. “From when he first stepped in, he has developed a new identity for the team, and I am very excited to see what he brings in the future.”
In the playoffs, the Bruins’ active roster contained 14 total players either playing in their first Stanley Cup Playoff game, or were in their first season in the NHL. One player, defenseman Charlie McAvoy, did not even play a regular season game, for the Bruins signed him out of college to play his first NHL game in Game One against the Senators. Due in large part to Cassidy’s experience as Providence head coach, as well as his willingness to play the younger guys, Cassidy has shown what is in store for the organization’s future.
“Although we lost, we were dealing with plenty of injuries that crippled the defense, but Cassidy had a good effort to right the ship. I am interested in what Cassidy can do next year to bring the Bruins back to the Cup,” said WHS Boys Hockey defensemen Michael Timson.
In the end, the improvement that Cassidy has brought to Boston in just 27 regular season games and six playoff starts shows that he not only is the leader that Boston so desperately needs, but also that he and the team can be and will be a Stanley Cup contender once more.