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Cassidy Assumes Interim Head Coaching Duties

by Caryn Switaj @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - General Manager Don Sweeney named Assistant Coach Bruce Cassidy as Interim Head Coach on Tuesday, after announcing that Claude Julien had been relieved of his head coaching duties. 


Cassidy is in his first season with Boston after spending five seasons at the helm of the Providence Bruins. He joined the organization in 2008 as an assistant coach with the P-Bruins. This is his second stint as an NHL head coach, with experience behind the bench of the Washington Capitals. 


Following Sweeney's press conference, Cassidy met with reporters at Warrior Ice Arena on Tuesday after leading the Bruins through his first practice as interim head coach. 


Prior to the practice, what was his message to the the players? 

"The message was, first and foremost, that as part of Claude's staff, I have nothing but respect and admiration for him," said Cassidy. "That I feel myself, personally, as a part of his staff, that we let him down, that I let him down, and every player and coach should feel that way to a certain extent."


"But our focus now goes on getting better every day, and the process of how we're going to win games, how we're going to get better, and so that was the message, and our focus was on our pace in practice, on playing at a higher pace, playing on our toes as opposed to our heels."


"If we can start building those habits into practice, then you want them to translate into a game, so that was the main message [on Tuesday], and [on Wednesday], we'll go back to work in that area, and hopefully we'll see some results in the short term, and the long term, in terms of that process."


Since Cassidy is in his ninth season with the organization, he understands the adjustment that it's going to take without Julien around. 


"I think there are a lot of people surprised and disappointed for Claude, and he's a Stanley Cup Champion, he's a winner, and we would have all like to see that success, to continue to build on that success," said Cassidy. "You'd have to ask [the players] how each individual feels. There's a lot of players that he's been their only coach, so I imagine they are disappointed, but again, I cannot speak for the players."


"My job now is to get their heads focused on playing, and playing well, and that begins [now], and our first game on Thursday against San Jose."


Video: Bruins relieve Julien of coaching duties


During both press conferences, Sweeney and Cassidy talked about a higher pace to practices, and translating that to games. They also referenced tweaks to immediately improve play.


"The team is not that far away from winning games," said Cassidy. "We've pointed out lately - there was a quote out there [that] 'we've found ways to lose instead of win.' That means you're generally close, so we've got to flip the switch on a few of those plays throughout the course of the game [to] go in our favor."


"Whether that's defending a little better, managing the puck a little better, getting a save at a key time, finishing at a key time. How we do that, we're not to reinvent the wheel system-wise - there's a lot of good things in place."


"We're just going to try to tighten up a few areas, in our end in terms of getting pucks back a little quicker, and then hopefully at the offensive end, being more opportunistic with our chances, and again, that's easier said than done."


"I mean, the players want to score every night, so tinker with our offensive zone play a little bit, in terms of encouraging our forwards to attack the net more from the half-wall, using the back of the net, forcing teams to defend the front of the net, as opposed to maybe playing on the perimeter going low to high. So those are the instant adjustments that we're going to implement."


Cassidy's last stint as an NHL head coach came in 2002-04 with the Capitals. Much has changed since then. Most notably, the salary cap era has ushered in a surge of younger players. 


"There's a lot more developing going on, on the fly," said Cassidy. 


"The cap forces you to push guys up in the lineup maybe sooner than they were ready compared to previous years, so [there's] more teaching as a result."


"So, that's our job as coaches, to make sure that every day that we recognize that and don't forget that some of these players up here are young and they haven't had a ton of seasoning that maybe they would have had 15 or 20 years ago."


During Cassidy's tenure with Providence, he coached a number of players on Boston's current roster, including David Pastrnak, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano. 


Cassidy compiled a 207-128-45 overall record in 380 games at the helm of Providence, including winning seasons in all five years and postseason berths in each of his final four seasons - with many of the aforementioned players getting playoff experience. 


Video: Pastrnak on interim coach Bruce Cassidy


"My roots are in the American Hockey League, especially down in Providence, very close to here, so I've coached a lot of these players that, some of them have moved on to play good parts here in Boston, other ones are still finding their way," said Cassidy. "So there's a previous relationship that I think is positive for most of those players, so I have to build on that."


"The American League is certainly not the NHL. There are things you have to do differently, but it's still coaching. You're still teaching. You're still motivating your players. So hopefully, there's that mutual respect between player and coach that I have right out of the gate, because I've been there with them, and not being a new face coming off of the street."


"The one thing is that, I hope they would say that they get second, third, fourth chances as younger players, as long as they're willing to work and play within the system, that they'll be given an opportunity to play to their strengths, and that's my end goal, with these younger players, and all the players."


As a player at the pro and NHL level, Cassidy was an offensively-mined defenseman. It's natural that the aggressive mindset will translate into his methods. 


"Butch has the tendency to have his practice at a high tempo; we'll see if any of our players can respond to that in some areas," said Sweeney. "Defensively, I don't think we'll deviate too much from the structure. I think there will be a few tweaks there."


"Butch was an offensive player," said Sweeney. "I think he gravitates towards players that have a creative mind, along with the fact that, I said, he doesn't deviate from the structure and accountability-wise, he's pretty black and white from a player's perspective - where you stand and what you're bringing to the table."


"I think that will be something that he likes to meet with players and set the expectations, and if it's not going well in a game, he makes changes and makes adjustments. And then he wakes up that next day and realizes, how does that player get better? He's not carrying something over from the night before. He's good that way."


With Cassidy assuming the interim head coaching duties, Jay Pandolfo will move down to the bench during games to run the offense. He was previously up in the press box as "the eye in the sky." Joe Sacco will run the defense and strategize matchups, while Bob Essensa will remain the goaltending coach. The group will operate in collaboration. 


As for Cassidy, he's approaching his duties as head coach with accountability at the forefront. 


"You have to build trust with players to hold them accountable, whether you're interim, or full-time, or you have a five-year contract, or you have a one-year contract," said Cassidy. "At the end of the day, players generally want to be accountable, if it's in their make-up, and if they have a mutual respect with their coach, and that's my end goal with every player, to explain why we need them to play a certain way, why it's for the good of the Boston Bruins, and sometimes that might interfere with their individual goals, but that's part of coaching. You've got to make sure that message comes through, and that's job number one."


Cassidy understands moving forward that there will be a transition, especially in regards to players who have had only had Julien as their head coach throughout their entire NHL careers, like David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Torey Krug, among others.


Video: Krejci reacts to the Bruins' coaching change 


"Listen, sometimes a new coach comes in, some players get excited; some are not excited," Cassidy acknowledged. "So we're going to find out Thursday [what the results will be]. But the guys that are, we hope that they bring that energy, and look at it as a fresh chance, and off we go."


The Bruins continue their homestand on Thursday night when they host the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. They'll have three home games, on Thursday, Saturday (against Vancouver) and Sunday (against Montreal), before getting five days off for their NHL designated bye week. 


For that trio of games, and moving forward, the emphasis remains on results this season, while continuing the development of players. 


"Well, winning is paramount, right? It's a results-oriented business. I know that, I'm aware of that," said Cassidy. "But we also want to remind the players that there is a process involved to get where you want to go every day. We have to be focused on that. Players know where we stand in the standings. And of course, coaches know."


"But we can't live and die by every win or loss by the teams that are chasing us and that we're chasing. We have to worry about the Boston Bruins and how we are playing on the ice. Are we playing to the level that we can and beyond so that we can win our share of games and not worry about everything going on around us? Of course, it's a factor how other teams do. But, our focus right now is on getting our team playing the best brand of hockey they can every night."

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