With new coach, Bruins adjusting on the fly
David Backes is no stranger to seeing coaches fired in the middle of the season.
A coaching change was made twice during Backes’ 10 years in St. Louis. In 2009-10, Davis Payne replaced Andy Murray. Two seasons later, Payne was shown the door in place of another recently fired head coach, Ken Hitchcock.
The Hitchcock hiring came in Backes’ first season as the Blues captain. Hitchcock won the Jack Adams Award at the end of the year as he guided St. Louis to a second-place finish in the Western Conference.
“There was two [coaching changes] during my time there and the second one was two or three months into my captaincy,” Backes recalled following Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “It’s never an easy thing to go through.”
This is different from the situation Hitchcock inherited, though. The Bruins are a mediocre team at best. Management keeps shooting itself in the foot with personnel decisions and Tuesday’s example of announcing the firing of Claude Julien was another head-scratching move based on the timing coinciding with the Patriots’ parade.
Many Bruins, including Backes and Brad Marchand, were quite outspoken on how the Bruins failed to execute Julien’s game plan on a nightly basis. Instead of dwelling on the past, however, their mindset on looking ahead and fixing their situation is something the Bruins must devote their attention to, as difficult as it may be.
“You see the human side of it and as a professional side of it’s certainly a time where you need to reflect and see not only what you could have done different in the past, but need to do different going forward to not continue the status quo, and that’s the mindest in here,” Backes added.
“Talking to a few guys in the last 24 hours of [how much] it sucks and guys wondering whether or not it was the right move, but reality is reality. We had two good [practices] in a row and we need to move forward as a group and come together to get through this adversity as we meet it.”
Through all the adversity, the internal hiring of Bruce Cassidy as interim coach still represents an adjustment period for the 2016-17 Bruins. No one knows what his future holds. The players, however, are getting accustomed to Cassidy’s up-tempo practices during his first two days on the job.
Tonight, the former Providence and Washington bench boss enters Game 1 of his Boston tenure. Even though Cassidy isn’t interested in “reinventing the wheel”, no one knows what to really expect.
Will he keep most of the lineup that Claude Julien inserted on a nightly basis? Will he try to balance things out on his four lines in an attempt to boost goal scoring throughout the lineup? Will he let the defense pinch a little more to keep pucks in and to help the offensive production?
A lot remains to be seen as Cassidy and the Bruins trek their way through the snowstorm to Causeway Street tonight against the Sharks.
“The lines are fluid right now. We’re looking for what’s going to be the best for the team, the group, without ripping everything apart,” Cassidy said following Wednesday’s practice.
“We know [Patrice] Bergeron, [Brad] Marchand, and [David] Pastrnak have been arguably the best line in the National Hockey League, so we want to spread some of that around. And that’s a group collaboration, including our top-end players that have been around. We respect their opinion. After that, we’ll see how it shakes out. The best players will play and hopefully they’re in the right spots and the right combinations.”