While Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is doing more real live rink work with his son Cole than he is with his NHL hockey team these days, the strange, COVID-19-influenced offseason hasn’t kept the reigning Jack Adams far from hockey coach mode. Cassidy admitted as much in a Thursday interview with the NHL Network when asked what he’s doing to keep busy with the NHL still without a start date for next season, or even training camp.
Cassidy is always tinkering with innovations and improvements for the Boston Bruins, and that is 100 percent true since the Black and Gold got bounced by the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs. So, there are a few things Cassidy is mulling with the idea that NHL training camps could be open as quickly as next month.
Much of Boston’s improvement plan centers on generating offense from the B’s back end, a specific area that Cassidy said he’s going to take a firmer coaching hand in next season. Some of Cassidy’s attention is due to the youth movement happening on the B’s blue line, but It’s about somehow replacing the production of top offensive D-man Torey Krug after his free agent departure to the St. Louis Blues.
Either way Boston needs to get more bang for their back from the back end in Cassidy’s estimation. Nobody on Boston’s current back end has ever produced more than seven goals or 32 points in a season entering, and that’s a far cry from the 10-goal, 50-point seasons that Krug would regularly crank out for the Black and Gold.
Some of that would change if Zdeno Chara returns to the B’s while currently unsigned as a free agent, but he’s far from an impact offensive player as well at 43 years old.
“I’ve gone through our playoff series, the most recent ones with Carolina and Tampa Bay. We’re not going to change a lot of things, but I think you have to certainly adapt when things don’t go well,” said Cassidy. “There’s a couple of areas of our game that we’ve looked at: How we’re going to break out pucks from our neutral zone defense, and how we can do a better job of that and be cleaner. Offensive blue line play…How can we generate more five-on-five scoring with that?
“Obviously with our blue line a little bit in flux right now, we want to wait and see who is going to be in training camp and go from there. Those are a couple of things I’ve looked at a little closer. Power play now and who is going to replace Torey Krug? We’ve got Matt Grzelcyk who has done a good job in the past and we’ve got Charlie McAvoy that could slide in there. And who knows if we make another move, right?”
Interesting thoughts from Cassidy on “another move” on Boston’s back end with many around the NHL believing that the Boston Bruins need to make another impact move ahead of the season. The B’s tried to deal for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson last month, but those talks fell short in the brief window to make a deal.
It sounds like Cassidy is advocating for the Boston Bruins front office to find another Ekman-Larsson-type ahead of the regular season, but that isn’t going to be easy given Boston’s cap situation and the flat salary cap around the league. Stay tuned on that one because the B’s back end could go through some significant growing pains to start next season if Cassidy’s tweaks aren’t enough to coach the young players up to snuff.