There are rewards for the type of success Bruce Cassidy has had since taking over as coach of the Bruins.
There’s the 117-52-22 record, the trip to the 2019 Stanley Cup final, and of course the multi-year contract extension he signed Wednesday to stay behind Boston’s bench beyond the 2019-20 season.
But now that’s all in the past, and looking forward Cassidy is going to have to meet the type of challenges all veteran coaches tussle with.
By coaching the Bruins up to elite status in the NHL, Cassidy’s team will now have a target on its back every night. The Bruins are going to get their opponents’ best games every game.
By coaching the Bruins beyond his two-plus seasons, Cassidy’s going to have to deal with the risk of staleness that befalls coaches at every level in every sport. He believes he has the correct plans for keeping his message fresh.
“Well I think you grow with the game, so that’s part of it,” he said at a press conference to announce his contract extension Wednesday. “I think we’ve changed the way we played a little bit each year. I think when we’re playing well, we’re playing to the Bruins standard of play, we’ll see how that plays out.
“Going forward we feel we’re going to have another strong team, but until the puck drops …
“How the message stays fresh, sometimes you delegate a little bit more. I think when I first came in, obviously there was some newness, I wanted to make sure the message was direction. I think working with [assistants> Kevin [Dean> and Joe [Sacco> and Jay [Pandolfo> now, they understand when we get together what needs to be said and how to filter it. So I think that has a lot to do with it. I’ve got a lot of trust in those guys to make sure.
“Veteran guys, we’ve talked about a lot, I go through them a lot and allow them to police their room and kind of the message we want. If it gets skewed then we have to step in and take control. So that’s the way I’ve kind of done it, it’s only been a few years. I imagine how this term goes we’ll have to come up with some other things to keep their listening skills where they need to be. But I just think that honestly it’s a mutual respect and once you start losing that then you better reel it back in.”
Leaning on veteran guys is easy now with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci leading the way. When Cassidy gets into the second half of this contract, he may have to find new player sounding boards to help out. He may have to nurture younger leaders more than he’s had to since taking Boston’s reins with a leadership group already in place.
“I think that’s already started. I mean we work with Charlie [McAvoy> and [Brandon> Carlo and [Jake> DeBrusk and [Danton> Heinen. These are the younger guys that came up that we hope will grow into those roles,” Cassidy said. “I think it’s going to happen for some, and others are going to … they’re not going to embrace that. I don’t know if when Bergy walked in the door as an 18-, 19-year-old if everyone saw him as the leader he’d be. And the same with Zee in Long Island, etc., right. So some of that stuff just evolves and some guys grasp it easier than others and kind of take charge. So we’re trying to work with them, but I think that’s down the road.
“I’ve never sat down with a young guy, talked to him about being a leader in this room. I think it’s more about being a good follower, learn from the leaders. But that day will come. I don’t know when, but I think our older guys have lots of good years left in them, but at some point that’ll be, as a coach, one of your responsibilities, and as a GM and everybody in the organization to try to find the next guy.”
These are all challenges that Cassidy will have to face during this season and beyond. Task No. 1 for the upcoming training camp that starts Thursday will be making sure no one is still thinking about Game 7 of last season’s Cup final or looking ahead to easily getting to that point again.
“The next part of the challenge is just getting back up and running. It’s been talked about … I just feel like listen we’ve got a bunch of great professionals in the room that are hockey players, and they’re not going to be worried about what happened last year, what’s going to happen next year. The focus is on now and I think they’ll be pretty good at that,” Cassidy said. “So that will be the challenge, but I believe with those guys in the group and the character they have that we’ll be able to get through that.”
Defending an Eastern Conference title and living up to a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract extension are different challenges from anything Cassidy has faced in his first few season with Boston. How he fares in the next few years will determine there will be another extension in his future.