Above Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/Boston Globe
By: Aaron Chisling Follow Me on Twitter @achisling
Gerard Gallant, the ex-Head Coach of the Florida Panthers and caller of taxis, has been garnering most of the Jack Adams attention this season and for a good reason. Expansion franchises historically have been write-offs in their first year. Their rosters are composed of castaways and pending unrestricted free agents, doomed to the basement of the NHL standings. Going into this season things looked no different for Vegas. Analysts and experts alike were clamoring for the NHL Trade Deadline to see where James Neal and the bevy of NHL caliber defensemen would be auctioned off too. In a stunning turn of events, it’s unlikely the Knights will sell at all as their bench boss has led his team to a staggering 35-13-4 record and the Knights reign over the entire Western Conference in their inaugural season.
Bruce Cassidy’s coaching performance is being overshadowed this year by Gallant’s achievements, but what Cassidy has done is nothing to shake a stick at. By most outside of New England, the Boston Bruins were being penciled in outside of the playoff picture, eclipsed by the stalwart Ottawa Senators who just suffocated them and eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs. They stood no chance against the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs and dazzling Tampa Bay Lightning. The would have to fight uphill and through a Carey Price-led Montreal Canadiens to have a sniff at an Atlantic Division playoff berth, never-mind fight through the maelstrom that is the Metropolitan Division and defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
They have done that, and more. Led by Cassidy’s willingness to let the youth play and in what seems like every role, the Bruins have shattered expectations. Boston sits second in the East, second in the entire league in goal differential, they boast the lowest goals against in the league and has one of the most productive crops of rookies in the entire league. Charlie McAvoy’s emergence as a bonafide top pairing defenseman in his rookie season has been one of the greatest things to watch as a fan. Danton Heinen’s return to the NHL lineup and has proved that he learned and improved with his time in Providence. He’s quietly put up 35 points in 45 games played this season. During Brad Marchand’s suspension, Heinen has taken his role on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, and they have continued their elite puck possession and offensive dominance. Jake DeBrusk has become a mainstay on David Krejci’s wing in the top six, putting 11 goals and 15 assists up so far this year. Cassidy lets the kids go out there, make a mistake, and learn.
Above Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Pair this shot in the arm of youth with a return to elite play by goaltender Tuukka Rask, the Slovakian tower of power Zdeno Chara and the league’s premier two way forward Patrice Bergeron’s most lethal scoring season of his career? Jackpot, baby. Slowly but surely, the Bruins are coming up in discussion around the league as one of the teams that could be standing tall when the final rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs arrive. Bruce Cassidy’s coaching has played a monumental role in this rapid change. If I had a vote for the Jack Adams, I know who I’d give it to.
Aaron Chisling – Contributor
Follow me on Twitter @achisling