PROVIDENCE, RI — Even though both players and coaches were somewhat anxious about the Providence Bruins home opener, a few things were certain:
Goalie Michael Hutchinson
will be the starter Friday night. AHL sniper Chris Bourque
will quarterback the power play. And the bar has been raised in Providence.
"We’re looking forward to this 21st season," began P-Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy when he addressed the media on Thursday to open the Rhode Island franchise's third decade. "Right off the bat, I think our expectations this season — we addressed the group yesterday — are higher in terms of winning.
"Last year, we were very young," continued Cassidy. "My first season here, we were changing a bit of our style of play. I think that a little bit of worked against our start last year.
"So first and foremost, I think we’re anticipating hopefully a better start for the hockey club in terms of wins and losses because of what we’ve added to our mix, and because we expect the young group we had last year to build on the successes they had last year.
"But, until the puck drops, you’re never quite sure where you stand, and that’s where our expectation level is. We need to get back to the playoffs, and then go from there," added Cassidy.
That's been the NHL Bruins modus operandi for some time and "a harder to play against" attitude has served Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli's Black & Gold very well. However, the seeds of that mentality are sown at all levels of the organization — from the draft table, to Development Camp, to the AHL.
"I think the expectations for this league, where the AHL will be at this point and time, is very high," Bruins Assistant GM Don Sweeney. "I think our players are looking forward to that challenge.
"The group that we have assembled here is a nice blend of youth as well as returning guys, and some newer flavor to our organization that should be able to compliment each other. I think the development aspect is paramount, and it will continue to be at the forefront of the relationship between Boston and Providence.
"But, along those same lines, I think the expectations of winning have to step to forefront, too. And hopefully this group will rise to the challenge, and we’ll look forward to a playoff run moving forward."
That edict was not lost on the players in the P-Bruins locker room and was evidenced in every interview bostonbruinsTV conducted at the team's media day.
"I’m just trying to be out there to encourage them, push them a little bit, help them if they have questions, and try to get them to put their best foot forward every night," said Providence Captain Trent Whitfield. "What Bruce says all the time is to be a good pro, you’ve go to show up and play every night. Not just once a week or twice a week - it’s every time you step on the ice you’ve got to be at your best.
"I’m a firm believer that you practice how you play, and you play how you practice; however you put it. That’s what you’ve got to get through to these kids. They’re not playing against boys anymore, they’re playing against men, so it’s going to be a challenge for some of them to have that compete every night."
Sweeney hopes his charges will take that advice to heart, and said that he hopes the Bruins prospects in Providence know how integral their personal improvement and performances are to the organization's success going forward.
"I think the development part is always going to be at the forefront," explained Sweeney. "Every one of these guys has heard me say we’re in the business to make sure we’re trying to get to the National Hockey League, and play there.
"Some guys are at the different stages of their careers, where they play in the matrix of things is determined by themselves…[but] we’ve seen players leave this organization from Providence and go on to play for other organizations. To me that’s success. In a prefect world, we want them all to play for Boston - ultimately, that’s what we’d like them to do.
"That’s what I think we’re trying to get them to understand this year, most importantly. The better they get as individuals; the team is going to benefit from that."
Cassidy indicated that those points had already been driven home to his squad.
"Again, our mission is always to develop and do it in a winning environment, so we’re really going to stress that winning environment this year, and we’re looking for some success," he said.
The P-Bruins begin their season versus the Manchester Monarchs tonight versus Manchester and travel to Bridgeport on Saturday.