Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy did an amazing job reinventing himself into a Jack Adams Award winner. However, if the NHL and NHLPA truly want to eliminate head shots, old school folks like Cassidy need to reinvent the way they view dangerous and unnecessary hits like the one Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele laid on Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans in Game 1 of the North Division Final this past Wednesday night.
“Wow. That was a play you don’t see very often in hockey, where a guy comes out the other side, especially with the empty net. I guarantee you Evans did not expect to get hit in that circumstance,” Bruce Cassidy replied Thursday when asked to give his assessment of the controversial hit that had the hockey world bickering for the better part of Thursday.
“Five-on-five play, when you come around the net on a wraparound, I think the puck-carrier usually is anticipating some level of confrontation, but I don’t think he expected it at all. I don’t know — I watched replays, but I haven’t seen it down to the frame if he went through his head first or his shoulder. That’s the part that I’m sure they’ll look at.
I know he traveled distance, so that’s gonna be brought up. I don’t think, it looked like to me, there was any maliciousness intended in the hit. It just sort of developed, and it was there and he took it. But boy, it was a tough one to take. I hope first and foremost — I have not heard a report medically if their player is doing well. I hope he is. Obviously, that’s the first thing you think of. It’ll be an interesting one because you don’t see that particular play a lot, how the NHL’s going to handle that.”
Since Cassidy provided his take on the hit, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced that Scheifele had been suspended for four games. The old school folks continued to clamor that the hit was simply a hockey play and that four games was excessive. The guess here is that Cassidy will be in that crowd as well and if given the chance, I’ll ask him if he is when he holds his daily Zoom call with the media.
Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele has been suspended for four games for Charging Montreal’s Jake Evans. https://t.co/MhMHK55lmC
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) June 4, 2021
Cassidy’s first coaching stint in the NHL as head coach of the Washington Capitals from 2002-2004 did not go as planned but he used it as a learning experience, stayed in and around the game, adapted to the new age player and has led the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of his 4.5 seasons behind the Bruins bench. The Boston Bruins are not up 2-1 in the East Division Final with the New York Islanders without Cassidy’s leadership. Bruce Cassidy has proven he can adapt and lead and has also proven to be one of the most media-friendly coaches in the NHL. He speaks to reporters with respect and gives answers that make the media’s job easier.
This is why his take on the Scheifele hit was so baffling to this puck scribe. While Bruce Cassidy makes no qualms about being old school, he’s also proven to have the capability to be a Renaissance Man too. With these, in the opinion of this scribe, cheap shots becoming all too prevalent again in the NHL and the game faster than ever, the next player to take a hit like Scheifele’s may not get up. …or God Forbid, die. Yes, that sounds drastic but drastic is what this league and culture need right now and it’s going to take smart, eloquent, and old school leaders like Cassidy speaking out against those hits not just when it’s one of his players on the receiving end.