The Boston Bruins removed the interim tag and named Bruce Cassidy as head coach.
The Boston Bruins made the announcement Wednesday morning, three days after a disappointing first-round playoff exit. Bruce Cassidy was named interim head coach on Feb. 9, two days after the firing of long-time head coach Claude Julien. At the time, the Bruins were 26-23-6 and on track to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
Cassidy’s impact was felt immediately. He injected energy and a fresh approach, and the team responded. The Bruins won the first game under Cassidy, a 6-3 stomping of the San Jose Sharks. Then went on an 18-8-1 run to finish the regular season and secure a spot in the playoffs.
Beset by injuries, the Bruins couldn’t get past the Ottawa Senators in the first round, losing the series 4-2.
Yet, despite the playoff loss, the Bruins played hard for Cassidy. From the first game under him to the final game of the playoffs, the Bruins displayed a fast-paced attacking game that had been non-existent under Julien.
The team had grown moribund under Julien. His suffocating system and methods had squashed all the life out of the team. The mantra of defensive responsibility preached by Julien had grown stale. It often looked as if the team was just doing time and going through the motions. Julien zapped the fun out of hockey, and it showed.
That all changed overnight when Cassidy was named interim head coach. The Bruins skated hard and brought the energy every game, every shift. Defensive responsibilities were adjusted. Forwards were allowed to take chances. And defensemen were allowed to pinch down or join the attack when the situation called for it.
It must have been a breath of fresh air for the players in the Bruins locker room.
Cassidy is a former player, as well. He was drafted in 1983 in the first round (18th overall) by Chicago. His professional career spanned 15 seasons during which he accumulated 17 points in 36 NHL games. His bad knees forced him to call it a career in 1997.
Cassidy began his coaching career that same year. Stints in the IHL and ECHL marked his early years as a coach. Then from 2002-2004, Cassidy was the head coach of the Washington Capitals. And in 2004 he rejoined his old club the Chicago Blackhawks to be an assistant coach. In 2008, Cassidy joined the Providence Bruins as an assistant coach. He spent the next eight years there until getting the call on May 24, 2016, to join the parent club as an assistant coach.
The Bruins are a different team with Cassidy at the helm. From day one of his promotion to interim head coach, the Bruins led the NHL in goals per game (3.37) and held opponents to the fewest shots allowed (741) while trailing only two teams in goals allowed per game (2.30).
The Bruins simply played better under Cassidy than they did under Julien. Julien did great work behind the Boston bench for years, winning a Stanley Cup in 2011 and taking the Chicago Blackhawks to six games in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013. But a change was needed.
That change took place on Feb. 9, 2017. It was made official today by removing the interim tag and giving Cassidy the reigns of the Boston Bruins. Let the Cassidy era, officially, begin.