Bruins Players That Could Thrive Under a New Coach

( Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images )

By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26

The Boston Bruins are currently searching for a replacement for Bruce Cassidy, who was relieved of his head coaching duties by the Bruins’ front office. In his press conference, Bruins’ general manager, Don Sweeney, mentioned that they felt the locker room needed a new voice. As Bruins fans know, Cassidy wasn’t afraid to hold his players accountable for their mistakes and mainly came down hard on the younger players, and his coaching method left a bad taste in upper management’s mouth.

Boston has yet to hire a new head coach and assistant coach (formerly Kevin Dean) ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season. While many may be infuriated with Cassidy’s firing, the incoming coaching staff will hopefully ignite a spark in the Bruins lineup. Here are some players that have the chance to rewrite the script and benefit from a new coaching staff.

Jake DeBrusk

Jake DeBrusk’s relationship with Cassidy had many ups and downs since the start of DeBrusk’s career in 2017. While being a talented yet streaky player for Boston, he had moments under Cassidy where he was bounced around the lineup and sometimes sat up in the rafters. Cassidy wasn’t afraid to publicly comment on DeBrusk’s bad performances during his post-game press conferences with the media. It was clear that the relationship between the two parties started to break after DeBrusk’s agent made his trade request public to the press.

Under a new head coach, DeBrusk has a chance to develop a new relationship with the Bruins’ coaching staff. Last season, DeBrusk earned a lot more trust in Cassidy and the coaching staff by playing on the top forward line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand while also playing on all special teams. The 26-year-old forward has shown growth and a bit more consistency in his game but still has obvious room for improvement. DeBrusk’s future remains uncertain in Boston since he has yet to rescind his trade request, but a change behind the bench could revitalize DeBrusk’s relationship with the Bruins.

Matt Grzelcyk

Matt Grzelcyk was another player for the Bruins that received public criticism from Cassidy. The offensive defenseman does many things well, such as his elite edgework, strong transition game, and creative playmaking. On the other hand, he evidently has defensive deficiencies, given his lack of size and defensive awareness. When he was paired with Charlie McAvoy on the top defensive pairing, Grzelcyk was analytically one of the better offensive defensemen in the NHL. But his inconsistencies when it comes to his defensive play affected his relationship with Cassidy. 

While he was rarely scratched from the lineup unless he was injured, Mike Reilly pushed for a spot on the Bruins’ top-four defense pairings during the playoffs and could’ve won the position over Grzelcyk. Unfortunately for Grzelcyk, he sustained an injury late in the regular season, which affected his play in the playoffs. Despite the injury, Cassidy was sure to let others know that he wasn’t pleased with his on-ice performance. With Boston seeking to hire a new coach, perhaps a change of voice in the locker room will allow Grzelcyk to reform his role with the Bruins in the top-four.

Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall is a curious figure given his status as a former Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player (2018) and an elite playmaker. Hall isn’t quite the player he used to be, but he provides remarkable speed and skill to the Bruins’ top-six forwards. Hall reached the sixty-point mark for the fourth time of his career last season (81 games) and played relatively consistently down the stretch of the regular season. But he saw his ice time go down when he wasn’t playing the way Cassidy wanted. Last season, Hall’s average time on ice was at 16:25 minutes per game, but this average could’ve been higher if Cassidy had given him more rope to play an offensive role on the team.

Cassidy tried to get the most out of Hall when he moved David Pastrnak to the second line and placed him on the top powerplay unit. Hall and Pastrnak had almost instant chemistry, leading to better production from Hall at 5-on-5. Cassidy did his best to integrate Hall on the first powerplay unit, but he was placed as the net-front presence, which isn’t the proper role for him. Hall is a puck possession and pass-first player that should be positioned on the perimeter during the powerplay.

Hall will be an essential player for Boston at the beginning of next season, given they will be without Marchand (hip surgery) for the first month or so. With a new coaching change, Hall will likely have a longer leash and a more significant offensive role with the Bruins.

Trent Frederic

Trent Frederic showed improvement throughout the 2021-22 NHL campaign. He added a physical and hard nose game to the Bruins lineup when he earned a spot on the third line alongside Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith. Towards the tail end of the regular season, Frederic, Coyle, and Smith seemed to be a line destined for playoff success. But as we saw in the regular season, Frederic took careless penalties, and the line began to fall into pieces. Frederic lost the trust of Cassidy under the bright lights and forfeited his roster spot in the playoffs.

The story of Frederic is a classic example of what Bruins management is looking to avoid by hiring a new coach. Management hopes to integrate young players into the lineup and allow them to play through adversity rather than scratching them out of the lineup when they make a mistake. Frederic had multiple instances of careless penalties in both the regular season and playoffs and needed to regain Cassidy’s trust game by game to be consistently in the lineup.

Much like these other players, Frederic has a clean slate to work with since the Bruins are exploring the coaching market in the NHL. It’s uncertain where the 24-year-old will be slotted in the lineup next season, but if he shows physical and mental maturity, he could earn the coaching staff’s trust and have the potential to provide a unique element to the Bruins roster.

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