Bruins

Bruce Cassidy earned his job security, and now it's just about winning

Bruce Cassidy earned his job security, and now it's just about winning

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.

Sweeney: Carlo, McAvoy contracts still "works in progress">>>

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Haggerty: It was easy to love Don Cherry, but there's no defending him this time

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Haggerty: It was easy to love Don Cherry, but there's no defending him this time

Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don Cherry has been in hot water before with his controversial takes on "Coach’s Corner," but "Grapes" took it one step too far this past weekend and is done after nearly 40 years entertaining hockey fans between periods with his bombastic analysis.

It’s really too bad because Grapes found his niche on Hockey Night in Canada as an influential, old school combination of Archie Bunker and former NHL head coach while entertaining millions in Canada during national hockey broadcasts. He spoke directly to hockey fans and had the puck pulpit like nobody else has in the history of the sport.

His colorful wardrobe was as flamboyant as his opinions, and he always straddled the line between sports and real-world issues while never wavering in his vocal, fervent support of the military.

People at NHL rinks in Canada huddled weekly around the press box televisions on Saturday night to see what Cherry and Ron McLean had to say during the first intermission of games, and players themselves waited to hear whether they got attaboys or chastisement from the legendary hockey  voice.

Unfortunately for Cherry, the impassioned pleas for supporting the troops for this week’s Remembrance Day became his ultimate undoing. It wasn’t his pleas for everyday Canadians to wear symbolic poppies that was the problem, though.

Instead, it was singling out groups that Cherry didn’t see wearing the poppies.

"You people ... that come here, whatever it is. You love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that," Cherry said on Saturday night. "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Clearly nobody argues with Cherry’s wish that more people show symbolic support for the troops, but it was his reference to “you people…that come here” that’s divisive, offensive and certainly pointed toward immigrants to Canada.

It created a media firestorm over the last few days that prompted a public apology from Cherry’s partner, McLean, on Sunday and pushed many to finally call for Cherry’s removal after a long history of xenophobic references during his Coach’s Corner segments. This time, Cherry’s bosses couldn’t simply let it blow over and it resulted in a change at what’s been a Hockey Night in Canada staple since the early 1980s.

“It has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down," said Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley. "During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.

"Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada."

This humble hockey writer always defended Cherry because a.) he was entertaining and colorful with his hockey commentary, and that always makes for the kind of good TV that the NHL needs in its coverage and b.) scolding the 85-year-old Cherry for his views was akin to scolding one of my grandparents that had a hopelessly outdated view of society that was never going to change, or evolve, regardless of the circumstance.

But the comment was a bridge too far that rightly offended a lot of fair-minded people, and elicited some heartfelt reactions from friends and colleagues like The Athletic’s Arpon Basu and Hockey Night in Canada’s David Amber on Twitter.

There was no defending Grapes this time around, and instead, it’s another lesson to everybody that free speech doesn’t mean it’s also consequence-free speech. Cherry can continue to speak his mind and perpetuate his antiquated worldview, but he’s no longer going to enjoy the Hockey Night in Canada platform that he clearly took for granted on Saturday night with the clumsy way he offended so many hockey-loving people in the US and Canada.

None of it makes Cherry a bad guy as much as it makes him a bit of a relic that probably wasn’t meant to be on a national broadcast anymore. The shame of it all is twofold. It opens up old wounds for many people that feel like they simply want to belong and have bought wholeheartedly into the “Hockey is for Everyone” mantra championed by the NHL.

And it also leaves a giant void in the iconic Hockey Night in Canada broadcast with Cherry’s bombastic personality now missing, and nobody in the hockey world that’s going to be able to step into those dapper Don shoes anytime soon. It’s a bad situation all around, but one that almost felt inevitable given Cherry’s attitudes in a world that needs more understanding, tolerance and togetherness than ever before.

It’s just a shame it all had to end on such a sour note for a hockey voice that provided decades of entertainment to puck fans everywhere.

MORE HAGGS: Sloppy play catching up with the Bruins>>>

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With Torey Krug down, Urho Vaakanainen called up to fill void on Bruins back end

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With Torey Krug down, Urho Vaakanainen called up to fill void on Bruins back end

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins have called up Urho Vaakanainen from Providence on Monday and that, unfortunately, probably means the B’s will be without injured Torey Krug for the time being.

The 20-year-old Vaakanainen skated with Connor Clifton as part of the third defense pairing during Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena after his recall from Providence, and Bruce Cassidy said afterward that it’s a game-time decision between Vaakanainen and Steve Kampfer to fill Torey Krug’s vacant spot.

The best bet is that it will be Vaakanainen, given his ability to play big minutes, play equally at both ends and move the puck with his excellent skating ability.

Vaakanainen was off to a slow start with two assists in 15 games this season for the P-Bruins and wasn’t particularly sharp in training camp this time around for Boston after breaking camp with the team a year ago. Bruce Cassidy also mentioned that the 2017 first-round pick had some work to do with his practice habits, but that’s nothing new as young guys like Charlie McAvoy have also gone through that learning curve when it comes to Cassidy’s fast-paced practice sessions.

“The 12 forwards will be the guys that were out there and we’ve got a decision to make on the back end between [Steve] Kampfer and [Urho] Vaakanainen,” said Cassidy of Vaakanainen, who had both high and low moments while putting up four goals and 14 points in 30 games last season for the P-Bruins. “He’s played better, defended better. I think early on he was getting stuck out wide. I don’t know if that’s a European-sized rink issue or just an issue because of the way they play over there, but it showed in some goals against where he was getting beaten to the middle [of the ice].

“We need to make sure that is buttoned up if he’s in the lineup. He’s been moving the puck better and just more engaged in the game. He’s been practicing hard too and becoming a better pro, so all good things and his game is falling into place as well.”

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings with both Krug and Jake DeBrusk out for Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers, but not ruled out for Friday night's big game against the Maple Leafs.

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork Par Lindholm Zach Senyshyn
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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