By Matthew Cunha
Bruce Cassidy was officially named the 28th head coach of the Boston Bruins on Wednesday morning. Cassidy lead the Bruins to an 18-8-1 record during the regular season and their first playoff berth in 3 years. Finally, there is sense of optimism surrounding around the Boston Bruins. Cassidy took a under talented team going nowhere and got the best out of them. Come playoff time, Cassidy led an even more undermanned team into a competitive first round series. Despite losing 3 out of their 4 D-men, the games were all nail biters. Each game was decided by just one goal. A couple bounces go another way, and the Bruins could be still alive.
“I think he did a heck of a job, his results are what a coach should be judged on. He got us into the playoffs and turned the ship around and won a lot of games while he was behind the bench,” said veteran David Backes courtesy of the Bruins twitter account. Other players echoed a similar message at the Bruins end of season media availability. With the support of the veteran group, Don Sweeney had a no brainer decision to hire Cassidy. After being on the “fire Claude wagon” for a year or so, it feels good to know that the change has been successful. Despite having found their new coach, the real reason for optimism lies in the Bruins young talent.
The young talent on the Bruins starts with Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy was inserted into the lineup in game one of the NHL playoffs and instantly played a top d-men role. McAvoy never seemed phased by the moment as he played more than 24 minutes in all six games. He ended the series with three assists and -2 rating. His natural puck moving abilities and defensive presence instantly changes the entire outlook of the B’s defensive core. McAvoy will likely step right back alongside Chara at the start of next season.
The young talent does not stop there for the black and gold. In the first round series, young defenseman Colin Miller and Joe Morrow held their own. Forwards Sean Kurlay and Noel Acciari showed promise as well. This list of young players also includes defensemen Brandon Carlo who missed the series with a concussion, but Carlo had played alongside Chara for most of the season. Those close the team say that many other young guys are close to being NHL ready. Most notably, the three guys who were drafted 13th, 14th, and 15th in the 2015 draft (McAvoy was the 14th pick last season).
The Bruins now have options moving into the offseason. Do they move on from 40 year-old Zdeno Chara, who has a year left on his contract? Which young players can they move to acquire other assets? The doors are finally starting to open. The Bruins will lose an asset with the upcoming NHL expansion draft. The rules prohibit those who did not play 40 games the last season to not be picked. Still, a player like Brandon Carlo or Torey Krug may be lost depending on who the Bruins decide to protect. This process will tell us a lot about the plans of GM Don Sweeney.
Although the six playoff games were just six playoff games, it is a sign of what’s to come for the black and gold. The Bruins young energy should and will continue to take over the team. The expectations have now been risen for the B’s. You should expect nothing less than a 5th or 6th seeded team. Although they get a pass for failing to win a round this season, that does not last long in the Boston sports scene. Optimism only lasts for so long.
Matt Cunha is a producer on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.