Don Sweeney gives Bruce Cassidy stamp of approval
When Claude Julien was fired days after the Bruins ugly 6-5 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 4, Bruce Cassidy was named interim head coach.
No disrespect to Cassidy, but he was given the promotion because at the time there was no better choice out there. Sure, Cassidy may have been a consideration as the team’s next coach, minus the interim title, but he has made Bruins management look smart thus far.
Now it seems as if the job is his to lose.
“No, it could be before. I don’t have a timeline on that,” general manager Don Sweeney said Wednesday in his post trade deadline press conference when asked if the interim title would be lifted after the season.
“As I’ve said, I’ve got a working relationship with Bruce, and that continues to evolve based on the NHL level now, as does our team and how they are going to react and continue to react.”
With a near perfect 7-1 record under Cassidy, no one saw this run coming, not even Cassidy himself.
“Well yeah, you want to have positive energy, right, and positive thoughts,” Cassidy said after Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at TD Garden. “So, you never know how it’s going to play out.”
It’s played out well for the Bruins, very well. The team’s pre and post-bye week success has launched the Bruins into the third seed in the Atlantic Division where they sit tied with the Ottawa Senators with 72 points.
With Cassidy behind the bench, there hasn’t been many major changes, just some tweaks here and there. But those tweaks have paid immediate dividends. Teams can play well and look good on the ice, but results are what matters at the end of the day and those results have been there for Cassidy and company.
“Success is definitely defined by the results, and the results have been pretty good. Let’s hope that that continues,” said Sweeney. “Again, it’s the players that have stepped up. The coaches have prepared and there’s been some changes and tweaks in things, but it’s been a nice response. It’s nice to see the players, they get the credit for the most part with the coaches support. But, Bruce has been good. It’s been a nice start for him. A really nice start.”
One tweak that has really stuck out has been how active the Bruins defensemen have been in the offensive zone. With more up-tempo play, the Bruins defensemen have been getting more involved in the play and because of that, pucks are going in the net. In the eight games under Cassidy, Bruins blue-liners have seven goals, 15 assists and 22 points.
“We’re playing with a little more tempo. We know that. The D are activating on the rush a bit more,” Brad Marchand said Tuesday after scoring his team-leading 28th goal. “You see that the D are producing a lot right now. We’ve got a lot of depth scoring which is what we were missing the first part of the year.”
Regardless of how things play out for the Bruins in their remaining 19 games and potential playoff run, Cassidy has opened some eyes in his second go around as a National Hockey League head coach. Cassidy hopes to follow in last season’s footsteps of Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and former Bruins bench boss Mike Sullivan and become only the seventh coach in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup after being hired mid-season.