Cassidy excited to get another chance at NHL level with Bruins

Cassidy excited to get another chance at NHL level with Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruce Cassidy paid his dues in the AHL with the Providence Bruins over the last eight seasons prior to joining the NHL club this fall as an assistant coach. It was all for a chance to again become an NHL head coach after serving as one of the youngest head coaches in the NHL during a tenure with the Washington Capitals from 2002-04 that didn’t end particularly well.

Now 51 years old and wiser, more mature and more prepared than he was in his last go-round with the Caps, Cassidy takes over as interim coach of the Bruins replacing a legend in Claude Julien, who won over 400 games with the Black and Gold over the last 10 years. The hope is Cassidy can open things up offensively for the Bruins up and down their roster, more seamlessly integrate young players into the fold and maintain the defensive structure always at the heart of Julien’s system.

“We have areas and gaps within our game that exist. Whether that’s strictly personnel related, or whether or not those are some tweaks that we need to make or continue to make, that’s what’s going to unfold here. I think the opportunity for Bruce, who I’ve had a working relationship with, to come in and sort of evaluate his job and where our staff is as well as our personnel is important,” said Sweeney. “It’s an important period of time that we can continue to allow to unfold as opposed to waiting until the season’s end and just seeing if we hadn’t done anything, whether or not that would have worked.

“So I’m not grasping and realizing that I changed the expectations necessarily in the group. I think I understand that, where our group is at. I think on any given night, we can bet any given team. Whether or not we can maintain the consistency to get to where we need to, that’s where we need to. That’s going to unfold in the next 27 [games].”

Cassidy is clearly hoping he’s up to the task over the next couple of months, and that he can show the kind of success that might allow him to continue as Bruins head coach. But either way Cassidy is grateful to get another crack as head coach in the NHL more than 10 years after his last gig in Washington, and hopeful his past relationships with so many of Boston’s young players can translate into results on the ice.

“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. So, there’s a previous relationship that I think is positive for most of those players, so I have to build on that,” said Cassidy. “The American League is certainly not the NHL. There are things you have to do differently, but it’s still coaching. You’re still teaching. You’re still motivating your players. So hopefully there’s that mutual respect between player and coach that I have right out of the gate, because I’ve been there with them, and not being a new face coming off of the street.

“I have to use that to my advantage with these younger guys, and the one thing is that, I hope they would say that they get second, third, fourth chances as younger players, as long as they’re willing to work and play within the system, that they’ll be given an opportunity to play to their strength. And that’s my end goal, with these younger players, and all the players.”

That’s exactly the kind of thing that Sweeney and Bruins management was looking to hear from the head coach that was going to replace Julien. Now it’s up to Cassidy to make his own mark and see if he can help lead a run from the Bruins in a vaguely similar situation to fellow former AHL head coach Mike Sullivan after getting promoted to the Pittsburgh Penguins job last season. 

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.

Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.

“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”

Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.

Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.

Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.


Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

File photo

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.

*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.

*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.

*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.

*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.

*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.

*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.