BOSTON -- The Providence Bruins haven't reached the AHL playoffs since 2009 and going into his second season as the head coach of the Rhode Island edition of the Black & Gold, Bruce Cassidy acknowledged there’s a fine line between winning and managing player development.
"Last year we won more than we lost, but not enough to make the playoffs," said Cassidy. "That’s ultimately our goal as a team, but again it can’t come at the expense of developing players."
Two of those players that Cassidy helped develop are forward Lane MacDermid and defenseman Matt Bartkowski; restricted free agents who recently re-upped with the B's.
Both men have played a handful of NHL games -- Bartkowski with nine, MacDermid with five -- and have spent the majority of their professional careers with Providence. However, Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney expects that both prospects will be pushing for playing time in "The Show" come September.
"Lane got an opportunity last year when we had an injury and the physical presence and the simplicity of his game is very, very effective," said Sweeney of the rough-and-tumble MacDermid. "He’s a big strong player, plays in really straight lines, he’s worked hard at execution of the smaller details of the game.
"He can kill penalties – he’s done a good job of that in Providence.
"Lane is a really, really hard worker," added the assistant GM. "I think he’ll continue to push forward and try and grab a spot.
"Bartkowski has come in and bounced a little bit between Boston and Providence, which is not always the easiest thing to do," explained Sweeney, a former Bruins defenseman. "Sometimes it’s easier just to go and play and continue to develop until you are completely ready and then maybe you don’t ever go back.
"He’s sort of at that crossroads, as well; that he can come in and push and challenge and carve out an NHL role for himself and I think he’s looking forward to that challenge coming up in training camp.
"He’s going to work awfully hard," continued Sweeney. "He had knee surgery this past year that set him back after he played a significant stretch of games where we felt he had turned a corner in identifying what player he was going to be.
"So hopefully he can get right back on that horse, pick up where he left off, and move forward."
For either MacDermid and Bartkowski moving forward would mean traveling north up I-95. But Cassidy certainly wants players with potential in his P-Bruins locker room, and remains excited for the challenge of producing NHL-ready talent for Boston, all while earning wins in Providence.
"I’m here to get players up here to help the Bruins win a Stanley Cup and we want to win at the same time down there," said Cassidy. "So, you know, you’re juggling some things, but that’s our goal and hopefully we do more winning this year than we did last year."