Bruce Cassidy was quick to credit the players for the multi-year contract extension he was awarded on Wednesday morning, and in doing so showed the modesty, interpersonal skills and intelligence that have helped make him a successful hockey coach at the NHL level. And of course Bruins players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Torey Krug among others deserve a share of the credit that the B’s have enjoyed over the last three seasons.
“I think it’s a good marriage, I think it’s worked well for both sides, so for me, it’s where I wanted to be. So [getting a new deal done] was easy in that regard,” said Cassidy. “I want to thank the staff as well. I think we have great chemistry together, and they provide a lot of support for me and do a great job with the players.
“Most importantly, I want to thank the players. They’ve responded well, we’ve earned each other’s respect, and it allows us to go forward here and reach our ultimate goal.”
But by signing him to a deal that’s reportedly going to pay him around $3 million per season for another three years after his current deal runs out after this season, the Bruins were also showing that Cassidy himself is one of the Black and Gold’s most coveted assets. Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak score the goals, Rask makes the saves and Chara shuts them down on defense, but it’s Cassidy that pumped the wins and playoff appearances back into the picture after replacing Claude Julien midway through the 2016-17 season.
Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak have become perennial 30-goal scorers under Cassidy, and the Bruins now have point-per-game players when that was pretty much an impossibility under the offensively conservative Julien. All of that scoring and offense has married well with today’s NHL that’s all about speed, special teams and skill, at least during the regular season anyway.
Cassidy is 117-52-22 (.670 winning percentage) in 191 games behind the B’s bench and has now won four playoff series in his three postseason runs with the Black and Gold. Obviously Cassidy and the Bruins still have some unfinished business after falling short in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final just a couple of months ago versus the St. Louis Blues.
All Game 7 bitterness aside, Cassidy has been able to develop young players, adjust brilliantly within the game, alter strategies when different lineups call for and, perhaps most importantly, keep the attention of the players inside the Bruins dressing room. In other words, Cassidy has been the perfect fit with the Bruins bringing out the best offensively while keeping up the good defensive habits developed by Julien over the previous 10 years.
As Sweeney said during the Cassidy presser, his head coach “earned” the new contract and then some.
“It’s not about people deserving things — he’s earned the right to lead this club and this doesn’t start from two years ago, it starts from a number of years ago, where I got to know Bruce really well, working with him [in Providence]. And to me, those translate into a lot of the ideals he has as a coach, in an everyday approach. During the game, [he’s a] really good bench coach to know who’s playing and who’s not. He continues to evolve, continues to be quick on the trigger and move guys around versus have guys to have patience.
“He’s got a good pulse of room, to allow veterans to do what they do, but also govern what he needs to. [He] sets up the ideals of the hockey club each and every night, knows what the expectations are, starts on time and has success and hold them to a standard each day. Can be very critical at home, we’ve had this discussion in terms of how that’s going to be received by players. But then the next day that turns right into a teaching opportunity and moving forward to the next day. I think that’s what players can identify with, realizing their opportunity is still going to be there.”
Certainly Cassidy has already made his imprint as an excellent Bruins head coach and he ranks up there with the other big three coaches (Bill Belichick, Brad Stevens and Alex Cora) in terms of accomplishments, innovation and success since taking over in Boston. Sweeney is totally correct that Cassidy has earned the money, earned the term and earned the job security to keep things going with the Bruins after a lot of winning over the last three seasons.
But now the job also becomes tougher. With a bigger contract and a run to the Stanley Cup Final, the expectations are higher for Cassidy and the B’s moving forward this season. The head coach still needs to show he can do whatever it takes to get his team over the hump after they fell flat in Game 7 last June.
That is Cassidy’s challenge now that he’s proven to be one of the NHL’s best behind the bench and he’s been rewarded accordingly. Now it’s about creating a legacy with the Black and Gold, and that’s where Cassidy and his players find themselves with the shockwaves from the Cup Final still fresh in everybody’s mind these days.
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