Noel Acciari

Bruce Cassidy, ex-Bruins teammates stunned by news of Colby Cave's coma

Bruce Cassidy, ex-Bruins teammates stunned by news of Colby Cave's coma

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy first got to know Colby Cave when he was the Providence Bruins coach and Cave arrived in the AHL as a 20-year-old from Saskatchewan in 2015.

So, the news that Cave, now with the Edmonton Oilers, is in a medically induced coma and in critical condition at a Toronto hospital after he had a brain bleed Tuesday and subsequent surgery was particularly jarring to Cassidy and Cave's former B's teammates.

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Cassidy told Joe McDonald of The Athletic that he and Cave's former teammates and coaches are working on get-well video messages for Cave, who had surgery to remove a colloid cyst that was causing pressure on his brain.

Cassidy said his wife, Julie, had spoken to Cave's wife, Emily.

“It’s very difficult for her because she can’t get in the room and give him a hug, or anything,” Cassidy said.

Cave's wife had a heart-wrenching Instagram post on Wednesday:

Cassidy said that despite the coma, he's hopeful that Cave can perhaps hear the messages. “Anything we can do. Every little bit helps and if we can chip in with some encouraging words then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Jay Leach, Cave's coach in Providence after Cassidy replaced Claude Julien in Boston, told the Athletic, “There’s no one better than Colby Cave with regards to being a person and the way he treats other people."

Cave played 23 games for Boston from 2017-19 and was put on the Bruins top line with David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand to fill in for Patrice Bergeron when Bergeron was injured in the 2018-19 season. When Cave was sent back to Providence, he didn't clear waivers and was claimed by the Oilers in January 2019.

Another former Bruin, Noel Acciari of the Florida Panthers, who played with Cave in Boston and Providence,  echoed Cassidy and Leach's sentiments.

"He’s who you want on your team," Acciari said. "It’s a terrible thing what has happened to him, but he’s a fighter and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones.”

Did Bruins make a mistake in letting Noel Acciari go? Feels like it

Did Bruins make a mistake in letting Noel Acciari go? Feels like it

Sometimes it’s unfair to second guess NHL teams on players they allow to walk away in free agency.

Certainly when a player is demanding more than they are probably worth, then it’s completely understandable. When it comes to the Bruins, there are numerous examples of the team walking away from players like Loui Eriksson who priced their way out of Boston.

But it’s a much more difficult scenario to gauge when it’s a relative pittance that results in a good player leaving the Black and Gold fold.

That would appear to be the case with Noel Acciari, who left Boston and signed with the Florida Panthers for three years and around $5 million total — or around $1.67 million per season.

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The term and cap number might have seemed too rich for a fourth-line player for the Bruins, but they proved it wasn’t earlier this season when they inked fellow fourth-line winger Chris Wagner to a three-year deal for $1.35 million per season.

This season, the 28-year-old Acciari has 17 goals and 20 points while playing 15:46 of ice time per game in a much bigger role for the Panthers. He’s on pace to score over 30 goals this season and would sit fourth on the Bruins in goals behind just Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak more than halfway through the regular season.

And more importantly, he’s doing it for an NHL pittance that the Bruins certainly could have afforded when they spent a combined $1.85 million to sign Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie to free agent contracts in July.

There’s a chance the scoring might run down a little for Acciari in the second half given that he’s already shattered his career high, but he also continues to bring an in-game intensity that has him leading the Panthers with 82 registered hits as well.

He’d sit fifth on the Bruins in that department behind Wagner, Charlie McAvoy, Connor Clifton and Sean Kuraly, but his ability to throw massive hits, draw penalties and fearlessly block shots was an invaluable part of the B’s fourth line along with his ability to create his own offense through hustle and grit.

Acciari’s 70 blocked shots for the Panthers would actually rank third on the team behind only Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara, and is something that Bruce Cassidy openly lamented that the B’s didn’t have enough of earlier this season.

“The message here is ... last year’s over,” said Cassidy back in December when the Bruins were struggling through a slump and he was benching players. “You learn from it, you’re proud of certain accomplishments, but you don’t change the way you play.

“You’ve still got to eat pucks (block shots) when it’s your turn to eat pucks, put out fires when it’s your turn to put out a fire. At the offensive end, I don’t think we’re generating consistently by getting our nose dirty or getting inside. Hopefully ... we start getting back to that style of play.”

Acciari clearly had no hesitation about “eating pucks” and it feels like the Bruins perhaps didn’t value that quality enough when making decisions about last year’s incumbent free agents.

It’s the kind of punishment and physicality that at times the B’s fourth line has been missing this year while playing at a lower ability level and being a little less difficult to play against.

Sure, the fourth line has been a little better as of late, but it feels fairly obvious they have missed Acciari’s presence across the board while casting no aspersions against Kuraly, Wagner or Joakim Nordstrom.

“We’ve kind of been scrapping together. [Nordstrom] has had some tough luck this year [with injuries] and guys have been in and out [of the lineup],” admitted Wagner, who is on pace to fall below last year’s offensive numbers with just four goals and eight points along with a minus-8 in 45 games. “But when we’re called upon we want to be the reliable, trustworthy guys that have to come 200 feet. We know that’s part of our job is taking the D-zone face-offs. But once we get in the O-zone, we want to hold onto the puck and take it to the net.”

Maybe now that the trio is healthy and back together they can regain some consistency, but they sure could use exactly what Acciari has been bringing to the Panthers all season long.

If the Bruins had been willing to spend a few extra dollars and maybe tack on another year beyond what they were comfortable with, they could have held onto another local kid in Acciari who certainly wanted to remain with the Bruins when it appears the organization had a different direction planned.

Noel Acciari excited to return home, face Bruins as member of Panthers

Noel Acciari excited to return home, face Bruins as member of Panthers

Noel Acciari will return to TD Garden Tuesday night as a member of the Florida Panthers, and the Johnston, R.I. native is pretty excited. 

"I'm excited to be here. A different side, but still excited to be back. Expecting a really good game," Acciari said, according to BostonBruins.com's Eric Russo. "We'll see what happens. There's still a couple more things for me to go over to see if I can play, but if I can, it's gonna be very exciting. It will be fun for me. It will be different, that's for sure.

"Boston and New England is what I knew, but I had a great opportunity here in Florida. I thought it was the best opportunity for me and my family. I thought it was the next step in my career and I'm happy with my choice."

The grinder has missed the past three games for the Panthers with a lower-body injury, and head coach Joel Quenneville is looking forward to getting the gritty 27-year-old back in the lineup.

"He's been a real good fit for us right from the outset," Quenneville said, according to FloridaPanthers.com's Jameson Olive. "He's a real good pro. He does everything you'd expect or want. He came from a real good organization, as far as doing things the right way."

And what exactly does Acciari do right? Quenneville detailed why the fourth-liner has been so reliable for his squad. 

"He's technically sound and has that responsibility and takes pride in being a defensive-type of guy," Quenneville said. "He takes a lot of D-zone faceoffs, kills penalties and blocks shots. He has scored some key goals for us as well. I think the priority for him and for us is to get those [tough] assignments."

Acciari isn't the only former Bruin returning to Boston Tuesday. Frank Vatrano, also a New England native, will take the ice in his third season with the Panthers. Brett Connolly, who spent 2014-16 with Boston, also will suit up. 

The B's will be looking to snap a three-game skid by grabbing two points at the Garden against a new-look Panthers squad. 

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