Boston Bruins Interim Coach Cassidy Deserves A Promotion

Mar 8, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy looks on from the bench during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 8, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy looks on from the bench during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston Bruins Interim Head Coach Bruce Cassidy is guiding his team towards their first playoff berth in three years. It’s time for GM Don Sweeney to ink Cassidy to a contract extension and solidify the position behind the black and gold bench.

On Feb. 7 the Bruins announced the firing of long-time head coach Claude Julien and the promotion of Cassidy to Interim Head Coach. A former defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks, Cassidy has been coaching professional hockey since 1996. His most recent post was with the Providence Bruins, where he led the Baby Bs to the AHL playoffs in every season except his first. Brought up to the parent club prior to this season, Cassidy was serving as the Bruins’ assistant coach when the call came to replace Julien.

Under Cassidy, the Bruins are 16-7 and have gone from 26-23-6 with 58 points and out of the playoffs to 42-30-6 with 90 points and holding onto the second wild-card slot. They are only one point behind Ottawa for the third spot in the Atlantic Division  However, Ottawa has a game in hand over the Bruins.

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It’s not only the winning that recommends Cassidy for a contract extension, but also how the Bruins are winning. From the first game against San Jose on Feb. 9, the Bruins have looked like a different team. They went from playing a highly structured defensive system under Julien to an energized, offensive, attacking style under Cassidy.

Julien’s system was effective for years and quite successful for a brief Cup-winning moment. But the game is changing to a more aggressive style where speed and attacking with all five skaters is the norm. And Julien’s system is ill-equipped to adapt to those changes.

Cassidy, on the other hand, is letting the skaters skate and giving his defensemen license to jump up on the attack. However, there is a price to pay when defensemen are allowed to join the attack. They can get caught out of position resulting in odd-man rushes and easy goal-scoring opportunities for the opponent.

And the Bruins under Cassidy are no exception.

After winning eight of the first 10 games with Cassidy as the coach, the Bruins hit a wall. They dropped four straight games and allowed 20 goals. After the fourth loss that saw them blow three leads and lose 6-3 to Tampa Bay, Cassidy told reporters from

"“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late we’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year, so it’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.”"

Criticizing his team and players in the media is a risky tactic. Cassidy, however, shows a deft touch, as evidenced by how his players responded. They allowed only two goals combined in three straight wins following his comments.

Cassidy’s feel for the right buttons to push was seen in the response to his public comments regarding a player. Goalie Tuukka Rask did not look sharp in the 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay. He gave up five goals on 28 shots (an unacceptable .821 save percentage). The fourth goal was a softy that any NHL netminder should save in his sleep. After the game, reports Cassidy said:

"“(Rask) needed to be better tonight. We need to be better in front of him, he needed to be better on some of those goals. It’s March 24, I mean really, our focus needs to be there, so you hope it’s more fatigue than focus this time of year, but I can only speculate.”"

In response, all Rask did was allow one goal in a 4-1 victory over Nashville. Then he defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 for his seventh shutout of the season. And he looked crisp and nimble in the net in doing so.

It’s impressive that Cassidy has been able to flex his authority as an interim head coach. Consider how effective he will be when the players know he will be around for the long haul. Having the stability of a long-term contract and the backing of his general manager will only increase Cassidy’s influence with his players.

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Since being promoted to interim head coach, Cassidy has implemented an exciting style of play. He energized the team and propelled them back into the playoff race. He has shown he has his finger on the pulse of the team. And he is making the right adjustments and using the media to motivate his veterans. Give Bruce Cassidy a new contract and a new title – Head Coach of the Boston Bruins.