Bruce Cassidy not here to “reinvent the wheel”
If you’re expecting a completely different style of play when the Bruins take to the ice Thursday night for the first time under Bruce Cassidy, you better think again.
“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel system-wise. I thought there’s a lot of good things in place,” Cassidy said Tuesday where he met the media for the first time as Bruins interim head coach.
“We’re just going to try to tighten up a few areas, in our end in terms of getting pucks back a little quicker, and then hopefully at the offensive end, being more opportunistic with our chances, and again, that’s easier said than done.”
One thing that Cassidy does differently then Claude Julien is in practice. Cassidy is known for a more speedy and up-tempo practice. General manager Don Sweeney addressed that in Tuesday’s ill-timed press conference.
“Well, I expect our practices to change a little bit, in terms of Bruce has always been a coach that wants to practice at a really high pace,” Sweeney said.
Meeting the media post-practice Wednesday, David Backes has already seen a difference in practice speed in just two days of the Cassidy era.
“After the last two days, yeah. I think you know the drills are kind of one after the other, we’re expected to be kind of on top of it,” Backes told reporters. “There’s not a formal warm-up drill, we’re just going right into it and a good and hard practice again today and we need to carry that tempo into tomorrow’s game.”
In Cassidy’s eyes, the team is not too far off from winning games. Cassidy’s first task is to take the one-goal losses that have been plaguing the Bruins and turn them into one-goal wins.
“Well early on it was goal scoring, and now it’s keeping the puck out of our net. So it’s kind of changed course a little bit,” Cassidy added Tuesday afternoon. “So if we can tinker with each, and turn those one-goal losses into one-goal wins, and I truly don’t believe we’re that far away from that.”
How does Cassidy plan on doing that?
“I’m not naïve to think you’re just going to go out there and a new voice is going to make that happen, but the first question, we’re going to tinker with our D-zone in terms of trying to get pucks back quicker, so we’re not defending quite as long in our end,” said the former Capitals bench boss. “See if we can accomplish that, and then get going on offense, where we’re getting a little more secondary scoring as well, encourage that part of the game, and get our D involved a little more as well.”
Cassidy will also be assigned the task of trying to get guys like Backes and Ryan Spooner to produce on a more consistent basis. Finding the right position and line for the two is how Cassidy wants to kick that task off.
“We have to identify if Ryan Spooner is a center iceman or is he a better winger. That’s a good question, to get the best out of him. And the same goes with David Backes, where does he best fit in?” Cassidy said about Backes and Spooner. “There may be some line tweaks to see who fits best with David Krejci, who is a world-class player, to get him at the top of his game. So, these are a few of the conversations we’ve had.”
Cassidy’s experience and familiarity with a handful of younger Bruins who have made their way through Providence is comforting to him. He hopes that experience helps ease the transition for not only himself, but some of the younger guys in the dressing room.
“Well, my roots are in the American Hockey League recently, especially down in Providence, very close to here. So I’ve coached a lot of these players that, some of them have moved on to play good parts here in Boston, other ones are still finding their way,” said Cassidy, who coached 380 regular season games with the Providence Bruins.
“So, there’s a previous relationship that I think is positive for most of those players, so I have to build on that. The American League is certainly not the NHL. There’s things you have to do differently, but it’s still coaching. You’re still teaching. You’re still motivating your players.”
For the time being, Cassidy is auditioning to remove the label of interim coach. Salvaging the Bruins’ season and somehow advancing to the playoffs would be a good step in that direction.