WILMINGTON – Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has clearly reached a comfort level when it comes to going through the paces at B’s development camp, and he handled all of the player questions with ease, insight and a little bit of good humor. The only question that saw the AHL head coach cut short his answers was when the subject matter turned to him, and any potential interest he might have in the vacant assistant coach spot at the NHL level.
Cassidy clearly has keen interest in potentially replacing Geoff Ward on the Boston staff, and is building up his body of work for another shot at an NHL job after serving as head coach of the Washington Capitals from 2002-04. So getting back up to the NHL is the end game for the 49-year-old Cassidy.
“Do I want to be [in the NHL again]? I want to be in the NHL every year,” said Cassidy. “[It’s as] simple as I can say it. [Providence] is where I am now. So whatever happens down the road with the vacancy [with the Bruins] will happen.
“I'm always preparing for Providence. You know, if something else changes, well give me a call and I’ll talk to you about it.”
Cassidy was last an NHL assistant for Trent Yawney with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005-06, and is heading into his fourth season as the head coach for a P-Bruins team that’s done an excellent job of prepping young players for the NHL level. Cassidy and assistant Kevin Dean have worked hard to develop youngsters like Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, and also shepherded goaltenders Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin and Niklas Svedberg through the minor league experience on their way to NHL gigs, or an expected NHL gig in Svedberg’s case this fall.
The hard choice for the Bruins becomes risking Cassidy’s clear value in developing young AHL prospects by promoting him to the NHL staff, or failing to reward a coach that’s excelled within the organization. Cassidy is nothing if not a realist after beginning his coaching career with places like the Jacksonville Lizard Kings and the Indianapolis Ice, and getting fired from his NHL job with the Capitals in a season that saw them tank all the way to drafting Alex Ovechkin.
So Cassidy values the job he has coaching in Providence, and understands that a constant flow of ready youngsters is a way of life in the salary cap NHL. The Bruins have been quiet on a potential new addition to Claude Julien’s staff, but did acknowledge that Cassidy is a candidate for the opening.
“I think every GM would tell you that it is important that you get players coming through Providence, and I take a lot of pride in it. I think we’ve done a good job down there over the last few years, but that is what we get paid to do,” said Cassidy. “It always starts with having to draft good players. You have to have guys to work with, and then you have to find what makes them tick.
“Some kids come in there, and they are scorers, they’re not necessarily going to do that in Boston. So you have to find another way for them to fit into Boston, but still enjoy playing the game and play to their strengths. That happens every year for us, a new set of guys and hopefully we have some more coming. Last year we were playing in the playoffs in late May, and we had eight, nine, 10 first year [AHL] players in our lineup. So I was proud of the guys. That’s not easy to do for them too. Guys like [Alexander] Khokhlachev and [Seth] Griffith, they were leading the playoffs in scoring so we found a couple of good ones there.”
The Bruins have another good one down there in Cassidy, who has unfailingly groomed a growing number of players for the next step in Boston while also teaching them within the frameworks of the Bruins’ offensive and defensive system.