BostonBruins.com — After Tommy Cross
and the Providence Bruins ended their 2013-14 season at the hands of Wilkes-Barre in a critical Game 7 in May, he focused on one objective: Making sure he remained in Providence in 2014-15.
On Thursday, that intention became a reality, as Cross signed a one-year, two-way deal with the B’s.
“It’s a great feeling,” Cross said. “It’s a privilege to be part of a great organization and I’m just happy to be back for another year. Happy for the opportunity and to keep pursuing and developing in a great organization. It was kind of my first time going through having a contract being up and looking for another one, so it’s good to have it taken care of and I’m excited to be a part of a great organization.”
The upcoming season will mark Cross’ third full season with Providence (he played in two games with the Bruins following his senior season at Boston College).
In his first full AHL season, he played in 42 games, finishing with 11 points and a plus-15 rating. Last season, his production dipped a bit, but overall, Cross is satisfied with the progression he has made since leaving Chestnut Hill for the P-Bruins in 2012.
“It’s been fun to be on some good teams in Providence and learn from Kevin Dean and obviously Bruce Cassidy and develop there amongst other good players,” Cross said. “So I think that’s what I think of when I think of my time in Providence. We went on two playoff runs, and we haven’t gotten as far as we’d like, but we’ve had two pretty good teams and I feel like we’re building something. It’s a pretty good feeling down there.”
Cross has yet to receive his first NHL recall, but he isn’t worried. He understands that the development process takes time, and he is willing to be patient — and keep finding ways to improve his game — until his time comes.
“I do feel myself getting better as a player, and I’ve learned a lot over the last two years,” he said. “I think in the minor leagues, looking to earn a spot in the National League, I think that’s what you have to focus on, and that’s definitely happening to me. I think I’m a better player now than I was two years ago, and that’s definitely a good thing.”
At 24 years old, Cross is transitioning into more of a leadership role with the P-Bruins. He knows the ropes, knows what to expect and knows how to push himself to continue to get better. He has been able to learn from some of the Bruins’ most successful young defensemen who have managed to work their way through the Providence pipeline in order to emerge as some of the brightest stars in the NHL.
Cross didn’t want to name any names, but whether it was Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller or someone else, he has always had plenty of solid defensemen to emulate within this organization.
“I’ve known some of those guys since I played with them down in Providence, so you kind of pick what they do well and try to take those characteristics and apply them to my own game,” he said. “As far as singling one guy out, there’s not one guy, but I think it’s just looking at the guys that have had success and evaluating them and figuring out where they’ve been successful and trying to put that into my own game.
“I think you take different things from different players, but just in general, some of the guys I’ve looked at, the way they compete and the way they defend has been something that I’ve tried to learn from.”
Cross knows he is far from a finished product. He knows that in order to establish himself as a full-time NHL defenseman, consistency is the name of the game, and consistency is something he continues to strive for.
He has made himself more durable. He has improved his hockey sense. He knows where his own strengths and weaknesses lie. Now, the goal is to bring all of that together and execute on the ice, night in and night out.
“It’s obviously a long season, and the guys who have successful careers are the guys who can bring it every night, and that’s what I’m working on,” he said. “I’m working on some other small things, and I think the biggest thing is consistency and being a difference-maker out there.”