Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 13: Head coach Bruce Cassidy of the Vegas Golden Knights speaks during a news conference after the team's home opener against the Chicago Blackhawks at T-Mobile Arena on October 13, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights defeated the Blackhawks 1-0. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • It’s been almost six months to the day since the Bruins relieved Bruce Cassidy of his duties as head coach of the Bruins.

    It was a straight gut punch to Cassidy. Growing up a fan of Bobby Orr and the Bruins, Cassidy never minced words when it came to what it meant to him to coach the Bruins. Even upon his firing, Cassidy outright admitted that the logo was basically “tattooed” on him. In the same breath, Cassidy made it known that he was not done coaching just because the Bruins moved on from him, and he found work a mere eight days later when the Golden Knights came calling.

    And it’s a move that’s proved that Cassidy’s still got it as a top-tier coach in this league.

    Through 26 games, the Golden Knights sit at 18-7-1, and sit atop both the Pacific Division and Western Conference with 36 points. They’re top ten in both goals for per game and goals against per game. And only the Devils and Bruins have posted stronger point percentages than Vegas and their .712 out of the gate this season.

    So, even with enough in the now for Cassidy to move on, what has the return to Boston been like for Cassidy?

  • “Good memories,” Cassidy said following a Sunday practice at TD Garden. “I walked out to the other bench, the home bench just to see what it was like having been in that spot a lot. I used to always look at the banners up top. Wanted to hang one. That didn’t happen, but still great memories.

    “Good to see [Matt Grzelcyk]’s dad, people walking around tomorrow will be better. The McCorkles I’m sure will be here. It’s things like that. There’s good memories of people you meet behind the scenes.

    “I always had great memories from here.”

  • TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 19: Head coach Bruce Cassidy and Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins celebrate their teams 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 19, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    TORONTO, ONTARIO – AUGUST 19: Head coach Bruce Cassidy and Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins celebrate their teams 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 19, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Elsa/Getty Images)

  • In Boston, Cassidy did just about everything except win a Stanley Cup. He won a Jack Adams, he took the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, and even had a chance to win it all on home ice in Game 7. The Bruins advanced to the second round at the very least in all but one of Cassidy’s full seasons behind the bench.

    He also got to experience and be part of the culture that existed long before he took over for Claude Julien.

    “I just think the appreciation of being around solid professionals like Zdeno Chara, [Patrice Bergeron] obviously, watched the growth of Marchy and Pasta, the growth of Tuukka,” Cassidy said of his biggest takeaway from his Boston run. “I can go down the list. Just the culture that was created, and I’ve said this before, [but] I think Claude laid a terrific foundation. We built off that and [Jim Montgomery]’s continued to do the same.

    “That’s what I took from it: The strong organizations are teams that are there every year, I think they have a foundation and culture. That was really important, I think. And when I was younger I didn’t maybe appreciate that much. I’m thinking, ‘This is how I’m gonna play [and] these are gonna be my matchups’ when it’s a little deeper than that.”

    Montgomery’s built off the foundation to the best start in team history, with wins in 20 of the opening 23 games of the season, and Cassidy has already noticed a few tweaks that have been made and paid off for Boston.

    “Certainly their D get involved more on the weak side. It’s something we had talked about here [but] we just didn’t get it accomplished for whatever reason,” Cassidy said. “Our guys do it well in Vegas as well. It’s that fourth man’s ice, so to speak. And I think [Hampus] Lindholm is a big driver of that. Unfortunately he was hurt for us a bit last year. We could see it. He was going to be an excellent player. It was a great acquisition. And he’s added to that. When you play 23 minutes and you have that guy who brings it, one guy can tilt [the ice], because you know Charlie [McAvoy] is going to do it and Grzelcyk has always been good at popping up there.”

    (This was always Cassidy’s biggest gripe during his time behind the Boston bench. He always wanted more offensive pop from the backend, and it led to undeniable friction between Cassidy and then-assistant coach Kevin Dean. Cassidy even fired Dean from the B’s staff before the Bruins decided to fire Cassidy.)

    “Neutral zone at times is a little different,” Cassidy said of the 2022-23 Bruins. “Aggressive in certain spots that we were less aggressive in terms of defending. So sometimes if you’re on time, you can take advantage of that. If you’re not, then they’re gonna get takeaways and go the other way, which creates offense.”

  • LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 23: Head coach Bruce Cassidy of the Vegas Golden Knights handles bench duties behind Michael Amadio #22, Paul Cotter #43, Jonathan Marchessault #81 and William Karlsson #71 in the second period of their game against the Ottawa Senators at T-Mobile Arena on November 23, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights defeated the Senators 4-1. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 23: Head coach Bruce Cassidy of the Vegas Golden Knights handles bench duties behind Michael Amadio #22, Paul Cotter #43, Jonathan Marchessault #81 and William Karlsson #71 in the second period of their game against the Ottawa Senators at T-Mobile Arena on November 23, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • But while the focus from Cassidy is on the on-ice changes, there’s been plenty of talk about the off-ice messaging and how it was received by some of the Bruins’ younger players during his time here. Brandon Carlo and Jakub Zboril were forthright when it came to the troubles that came with Cassidy’s delivery, and there were whispers from other players in regards to miscommunication or a delivery that left them unsure as to their standing.

    Cassidy’s touched on all of that before, and while he didn’t circle back to those critiques directly, he did make internal notes about them when it came to his move to Vegas.

    “I think every year you change a little bit. For me, in my situation, you’re reflecting and some things change,” Cassidy admitted. “I still believe in a culture of team-first and accountability to one another. What are you gonna change? Dealing with players, how do they handle the messaging. We didn’t change a lot about how we play.”

    Which should set the stage for one hell of a showdown beyond the obvious of Cassidy’s return to TD Garden.

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