Brad Marchand’s Newest Award, A Callback To His Journey To The NHL

(Photo Credit: AHL.com)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Just a week or so after receiving the First Star of the Week award, Brad Marchand has added yet another accolade to his already long list. Ten days ago, the American Hockey League announced that the Bruins’ winger was selected as the Ephesus/AHL Graduate of the Month for November.

In the 14 games he played throughout November, Marchand tallied 11 goals and 11 assists, good for 6th in the league within the month. The five players ahead of him? Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Leon Draisaitl. Of those five players, just Leon Draisaitl had gotten a taste of the AHL, where he played six games in 2015.

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - JUNE 09: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal during the first period of Game Six of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Enterprise Center on June 09, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

I was curious and did a little research on what other AHL alumni have had major impacts this season. Maybe it’s not all that surprising, but just four of the top 15 scorers in the NHL have played in the American Hockey League. Those four are Marchand’s teammate David Pastrnak, Capitals defenseman John Carlson, the aforementioned Draisaitl and of course Marchand. The little ball of hate has more games in the AHL than all three combined, lacing them up in the AHL for 113 games in his career. It’s not incredibly normal that a player with an extended stay in the AHL makes a big mark in the NHL, but Marchand is anything but normal. Marchand’s years in Providence were a major part of what has made him so damn good today, so let’s take a look at his journey.

In his time in the AHL, Brad Marchand was able to make quite the name for himself. Coming off of a big season in the QMJHL and a promising World Juniors showing, the grind to make it to the NHL began for the Halifax, Canada native. In his first season with the Providence Bruins, Marchand portrayed what made him so good in juniors. He maintained his strong playmaking ability and added the snarl we all know and love by putting up 59 points (41 of which were assists) and 67 penalty minutes.

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(Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org)

The next season was a massive one for Marchand’s development. He bounced between the minors and the big leagues throughout the season, not able to find any sort of consistency at the NHL level. For a Bruins team that was looking for scoring, Marchand went goalless with just a single assist in the 20 games he played in the NHL. Despite the very minimal success with Boston, Marchand still managed to put together a successful AHL season with 32 points in 34 games with Providence.

During that season’s playoff run, Marchand was apart of the Black Aces. When a hole seemingly opened up for the skilled forward when David Krejci went down with an injury, the Bruins elected to give NHL journeyman Trent Whitfield the shot over the young Marchand. That choice did not work out for Boston, as Whitfield failed to record a point in the four games he played and the Bruins suffered one of the franchise’s biggest collapses in team history, blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Following the infamous 2010 collapse, Brad Marchand made quite the promise in the annual exit meetings with the then Bruins’ head coach Claude Julien. Despite failing to reach the back of the net once in 20 NHL games AND not reaching 20 goals in either of his two seasons in the AHL, the former 3rd rounder promised to hit 20 goals in the 2010-2011 season. So naturally, the undersized forward who was never a prolific goal-scorer faltered and had a bust of a season, right? Well, you all know that isn’t the case. Marchand scored 21 goals and helped lead the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup victory, ending their nearly 40-year drought.

Brad Marchand

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

Year after year following his rookie season, Marchand’s role with the Bruins continued to evolve. He’s steadily progressed from a 40 to 50, to 60, to 80 and now 100 point player. Playing in the AHL was just the first step out of many for Brad Marchand to cement himself as one of the best players in the entire NHL. By winning the AHL Graduate of the Month Award, it seems Marchand has had a bit of a “come full circle” moment.

I feel it is worth adding that the Bruins took their time with Marchand and it paid off. Not every player can skip straight past the AHL and jump to the NHL and just because they have the skill, speed or size that doesn’t always mean success. This is important to the Bruins’ system that is filled with players with great potentials. Just because guys like Zach Senyshyn, Jakub Zboril, and Trent Frederic have spent their first few pro years in the AHL, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the chance to become true NHL players.

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Leafs’ Firing of Mike Babcock Similar to Bruins’ 2017 Firing of Claude Julien

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

When the news that Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock had been fired and that the Head Coach of the Toronto Marlies, Sheldon Keefe, had been hired as the new Head Coach of the NHL club, the opinions throughout the entire NHL universe – especially on Twitter, filled everyone’s feed.

The release of Babcock from the organization is a surprise, considering the expectations placed on him when he was hired by the team in 2015, but at the very same moment, it was expected. As of November 20th, the Maple Leafs are 10th in the Eastern Conference with a sub-par record of 9-10-4 and they have lost six consecutive games dating back to November 9th. Toronto has the team to win games on paper, but when those victories fail to come to fruition, it eventually falls on the Head Coach and that is the case here.

Mike Babcock started his NHL coaching career with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2002-03, leading them to a 40-27-9-6 record and the Western Conference Championship, losing an eventual Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals to the New Jersey Devils. In 2003-2004, the Mighty Ducks missed the playoffs altogether and Babcock was subsequently fired in June of 2004.

A full season later, in July 2005, Mike Babcock was hired by the Detroit Red Wings who were coming off of a dominate 48-21-11-2 record but were eliminated in the second round. From 2005-06 to 2008-09, Babcock led the Red Wings to four-straight 50-plus-win seasons – culminating it all off with a Stanley Cup Championship in 2008 and a Western Conference Championship in 2009.

For the entire ten-year tenure that Mike Babcock spent in Detroit, the Red Wings made the playoffs – adding to their incredible streak of 25 playoff berths that began in the 1990-91 campaign, tied for the third-longest playoff appearance streak in NHL history, behind only the Boston Bruins (29 seasons from 1967-68 to 1995-96) and Chicago Blackhawks (28 seasons from 1969-70 to 1996-97) and equal to the St. Louis Blues (25 seasons from 1979-80 to 2003-04).

From July 15, 2005, to May 8th, 2015, Mike Babcock coached the Detroit Red Wings in 786 regular-season games with a combined record of 458-223-105 along with a 67-56 record in 123 postseason games with the franchise, solidifying himself as one of the best coaches in the NHL. Add that with his two Olympic Gold Medals (2010, 2014), IIHF World Championships Gold Medal (2004) and his World Cup of Hockey Championship win (2016), Babcock proved that he is one of the best bench bosses in the game.

However, after repeated first-round exits, the Red Wings organization relieved the Manitouwadge, Ontario native of his head coaching duties and only a few days later, the now 56-year-old agreed to an eight-year, $50 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in an intense bidding war. Babcock’s ’15/’16 campaign with Toronto was a dismal one, as the Maple Leafs finished last in the Atlantic Division with a 29-42-11 record. Immediately, however, Babcock coached Toronto to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season – losing to the Washington Capitals in six games.

In 2017-18, the Maple Leafs took even larger strides en route to a 49-win season but fell short in seven games to the Boston Bruins. Last season, the Leafs managed to win 46 games for another 3rd place finish in the Atlantic Division, setting them up for the rematch against Boston, but once again, they came up short losing in another Game Seven.

With a virtually similar roster, the Maple Leafs entered this season with even higher expectations and they have not met them whatsoever as mentioned at the beginning of the article. Toronto has struggled to score first in any game and they constantly find themselves chasing the game in almost all aspects. Their defensive game is extremely lacking and the goaltending after Frederik Andersen is almost non-existent. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not good right now and it all fell on Mike Babcock, resulting in his departure from the organization.

In response, the Toronto Maple Leafs also announced the hiring of Sheldon Keefe, the Head Coach of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies since the 2015-16 season, as the 31st Head Coach of the NHL franchise. Sounds oddly familiar to the Boston Bruins back in 2017.

Boston Bruins Déjà Vu?

Replace the names of “Mike Babcock” with “Claude Julien” and “Sheldon Keefe” with “Bruce Cassidy” and you essentially have near-identical stories, sort of. Rewinding to the 2016-17 regular-season, the Boston Bruins were in a similar situation to the Leafs of today. Prior to ’16/’17, the Bruins failed to clinch a berth in the playoffs for two straight seasons, even though they just narrowly missed by only a few points in both scenarios.

Boston started the new season off rough, failing to gain any momentum or put together any winning streak(s), accumulating a 26-23-3 record throughout the first 55 games of the year. The B’s were on a pace to miss the playoffs once again and for the Bruins ownership, that is not acceptable with the roster they have, so they fired the man who has control of the lineup – Claude Julien.

Rewinding the tape even further, Claude Julien had one of the most successful tenures of a Boston Bruins coach in the history of the franchise. In fact, Julien is the all-time most-winningest head coach in Bruins history, winning 419 games in 759 regular-season games played. In addition, Julien was the Head Coach for 98 playoff games – the most out of any other Bruins coach, winning 57 games – another franchise record. Wrap all of that in a pretty bow called the Stanley Cup because it was Claude Julien that ended the 39-year Stanley Cup drought in Boston.

However, the league was changing and Julien’s defensive-minded style was just not cutting it anymore so General Manager Don Sweeney made the decision to release CJ of his duties in February 2017. Instead of naming a new Head Coach immediately, the Bruins named Bruce Cassidy the Interim Head Coach as he was serving as Julien’s assistant coach for the first time after being the Head Coach of the AHL’s Providence Bruins for the previous five seasons.

Cassidy brought in new ideas and upped the intensity during practices to get the guys to rally behind him. Cassidy came into the role as an almost exact opposite to Julien, coaching a more offensive game while staying defensively responsible. At the time, Cassidy also had experience and chemistry with a few of the younger players on the roster from his time with the P-Bruins, giving him additional advantages.

Backed by the veterans in the lineup, the Boston Bruins indeed rallied behind Bruce Cassidy, winning 18 of their final 27 games, earning a playoff spot against the Ottawa Senators. Even though the Bruins were eliminated in six games, it was a breath of fresh air to go 18-8-1 after Claude Julien was fired and to make an appearance in the postseason. On April 26th, 2017, Bruce Cassidy was officially promoted as the 28th Head Coach in franchise history.

Since then, he has brought the Bruins to a 50-win season in his first full year as coach followed by a 49-win campaign last year that ended up bringing the Black and Gold to a Stanley Cup Finals berth for the first time since 2013. Cassidy has done an excellent job adjusting and adapting to challenges in the lineups during the season and even mid-games. He has done a terrific job battling against injuries, slumps, and tough teams to earn the respect of being a top coach in the National Hockey League.

Will the Toronto Maple Leafs become a contending team, make the playoffs, and find themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals in a few seasons under the guidance of Sheldon Keefe – possibly, but this could very well end up doing nothing or even doing more harm to this struggling team. Boston had a talented roster behind them and had heart – some may debate if those exist for the Maple Leafs.

Boston and Toronto have a lot in common. The method of relieving old-school coaches for younger, new-school coaches is proving to be yet another similarity. Only time will tell to see if the Toronto Maple Leafs can turn their season around and be a contender for the Boston Bruins.

To close out, here are a few statements from current Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and former Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien on the firing of Mike Babcock:

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Report: Bruins, Cassidy Begin Contract Extension Talks

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

According to Joe McDonald of The Athletic, the Boston Bruins have started to talk to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy regarding an extension on his contract that expires at the end of this upcoming 2019-20 NHL season.

Bruce Cassidy has been in the Bruins organization since 2008-09 when he was the assistant coach for the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins. Cassidy, who turned 54 on May 20th, was the assistant in Providence for three seasons before being named Head Coach in the 2011-12 season, operating in that role up until the 2015-16 campaign. With the P-Bruins, Bruce led his team to the playoffs in four of the five seasons, only missing the postseason in his first year.

To begin the 2016-17 season, the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada native was the assistant coach to then-Head Coach Claude Julien. However, the Bruins would announce that they had fired Julien after the team boasted a 26-23-6 record. From February 7th on, Cassidy was the Interim Head Coach, leading Boston to an 18-8-1 record with him and managed to make it to the postseason in a losing effort to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals.

On April 26th, 2017, General Manager Don Sweeney formally announced that Bruce Cassidy would become the 28th Head Coach of the Boston Bruins, starting his Head Coach role in the 2017-18 season. Once again, the B’s were a dominant team in the Eastern Conference, finishing the regular season with a 50-20-12 record, earning a berth in the playoffs for a second consecutive season. After defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round, the Bruins lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round Two.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Steve Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty)

With the success of his first full season behind him, Bruce Cassidy still had a few doubters on his case, but yet again, he proved them all wrong, leading the club to a 49-24-9 record at the end of the regular season and helped keep the Bruins fighting strong all the way through to the Stanley Cup Finals, where he and his team fell one game short to the St. Louis Blues in Game Seven.

As of right now, Cassidy has a 117-52-22 record in the three regular seasons that he has coached in – a .612 winning percentage as the Head Coach. As Joe McDonald states, the organization does not release the salary of the bench boss but without a doubt in anyone’s mind, he will receive a raise in comparison to his previous contracts.

Keeping Cassidy is the best decision for the Bruins. Bruce has shown confidence in his players and has no problems benching players or moving players up and down the lineup when they are in a slump scoring-wise. In 2018-19, Boston dealt with injuries upon injuries to almost every single player on the NHL roster. However, Bruce managed to keep the wins coming, leading Boston to the Eastern Conference Championship.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 141 that we recorded on 8-18-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Why Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy Should Be In Conversation For Coach of the Year

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

The Boston Bruins have been on a roll lately and are currently on a 14 game point streak as of their February 28th matchup with the NHL’s best Tampa Bay Lightning. This team is feeling it right now, and season-long confidence from Bruce Cassidy and coaching staff has fueled this team to a top team in the league. Bruce Cassidy should be in the conversation with NHL’s elite coaches.

Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins have skyrocketed to the top of the Eastern Conference and the NHL’s overall standings. As of Thursday, they sit at 83 points which is second in the Atlantic Division, second in the Eastern Conference and Third place in the overall league standings. They even came in second in the NHL’s weekly power rankings. Just one point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, every point down the stretch is still critical for Boston and their playoff positioning.

At the forefront of every good hockey team is obviously good players. But, accompanying high-end talent on the ice, is high-end talent behind the bench. The Bruins have that in Bruce Cassidy. Bruce Cassidy was hired as interim head coach on February 07, 2017 after the firing of Claude Julien who coached the Bruins for 10 seasons and is the winningest coach in Boston Bruins franchise history. He then became the 28th head coach on April 26, 2017.

Bruce Cassidy undoubtedly has big shoes to fill. Throughout extensive injuries last year and this year, the Bruins under Bruce Cassidy have the second best record in the league since he was hired in February of 2017. Bruce Cassidy is currently 105-44-22 in parts of 3 seasons in Boston. He just recently became the second fastest Bruins coach to reach 100 wins when his team defeated Chicago 6-3 on February 12, 2019. With 100 wins in 166 games, only Tom Johnson was quicker in the 1971-1972 season when it took him 138 games to get to 100.

It is evident that Bruce Cassidy’s system is working in Boston and in my opinion, has to be in the conversation for the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s Coach of the Year. They continue to win games, and his voice in the locker room is strong. Bruce Cassidy has lost many players for parts of this season to injuries like David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and many others. As a result, he has shown a lot of confidence in the young players stepping into the lineup or into new line roles like Heinen, DeBrusk, Cehlarik, Kuhlman, Frederic, Vaakanainen and others. But despite these man-games lost, the Bruins are still climbing the NHL standings and solidifying their spot in the 2019 playoffs.

As the Bruins have battled their injuries this season, Cassidy has had to balance a lineup that has seen a lot of youngsters from Providence fill in for the injured B’s and has taken a lot of criticism for his line pairs. However, I think Cassidy has done his best with the lineup, and his system has worked. Thanks to their second-best powerplay percentage at 26.4%, strong leadership, experience, trade deadline help and consistent contribution up and down the lineup, the Bruins have emerged as a strong Stanley Cup contender from the East.

Wins speak volumes with whoever is in the lineup for the Bruins. Regardless of who has stepped in for Boston this season, the Bruins continue to win under Bruce Cassidy. Along with the likes of Bill Peters in Calgary, Barry Trotz with the Islanders and John Cooper with the Lightning, Bruce Cassidy has to be in the conversation for the Jack Adams Trophy as Coach of the Year.

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Bruins Cassidy Is Here To Stay As He Nears Two Full Seasons

Boston Bruins vs New Jersey Devils

PHOTO CREDITS: (Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

On Saturday, February 9th, Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will be the main man on the B’s bench for his 164th game – exactly two full 82-game seasons. Recently, individuals around the fan base have been questioning the work of Cassidy and whether or not he is the right head coach for the team moving forward in the years and seasons to come. In the shootout loss to the New York Rangers, Cassidy chose not to put forward Patrice Bergeron in the player-vs-goalie period, once again bringing up the judgement on his decisions.

Then there is the David Pastrnak situation. The Bruins are very much a front-loaded roster when it comes to the offence. Aside from the first line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak, the Bruins do not have much to fall back on when we are talking bottom-nine scoring forwards. David Krejci can put up numbers but always seems to be lacking good wingers at all times. Jake DeBrusk has more recently brought some life to the second line, but a hole remains on the right wing.

During the fast-paced action of a game, Cassidy may put Pastrnak with his fellow countryman, David Krejci and Canadian Jake DeBrusk to “spread out” the offensive firepower. However, not before long, the trio that is a true threat to any team in the NHL is back together and a large pool of centres and wingers are placed alongside Krejci to try and find that seemingly-rare chemistry.

We have yet to see multiple games of consistent Krejci-Pastrnak action unless it is on the power-play which, coincidence or not, is one of Boston’s strongest weapons of scoring opportunities. Krejci and Pastrnak have proven in the past that they can find that chemistry that has been discussed before on many occasions and build some good chances to put the puck past the goal line and into the back of the net.

Although, once they are on together, it brings along a weaker first line, where Marchand and Bergeron lose a highly-skilled scoring player who can make things happen on the ice. Recently in an interview prior to the Kings game on Saturday, Cassidy said that they are going to try out Danton Heinen on that top line. Heinen is not Pastrnak by any stretch of the imagination and has struggled this season after a strong rookie campaign in 2017-18. Cassidy did go on to say that Heinen is more a defensive player and the three of them will not have to worry too much about the top lines of other teams because all of them, especially Patrice Bergeron, are for the most part, responsible defensively.

The lack of depth scoring on the Boston Bruins in February 2019 can also be attributed to the lack of trades by General Manager Don Sweeney and with only a few more weeks until the NHL Trade Deadline at the end of the month, the clock is ticking to make that deal for another scoring player to play on the front end and bring some help to the top-six.

Either way, Bruce Cassidy has done well and continues to do well. In the past few games, the only line that has been reliable offensively has been that first line. In the three games of February so far, Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak have a combined eleven points. After them, David Krejci has two points, Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, and Peter Cehlarik have one, and the rest of the forwards are yet to score a single point in three games.

Dating back to January 1st, the dangerous first line has fifty-three points combined (22 Goals, 31 Assists) with Brad Marchand (7-13-20) leading the way in those 15 games. Only David Krejci has double-digits in points for 2019 and Jake DeBrusk is the next highest with only five points in fifteen games. It does not make the job of Cassidy any easier when they do not have a high quantity of quality players.

Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Tampa Bay Lightning for examples. Both teams have many interchangeable parts on all four lines. Almost every forward on the roster can play on the first line with success and the team will most likely still win games. Do goaltending and defence play a large factor in that as well? One-hundred percent. But the flexibility of those four forward lines makes the job of Mike Babcock on Toronto or Jon Cooper on Tampa Bay a lot easier.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

 

Just like the blame cannot be placed on individuals for a team effort, the blame cannot be solely placed on Cassidy for the position the Bruins are in. On April 26th, 2017, the Bruins named Cassidy head coach of the team – replacing long-time coach, Claude Julien who was fired earlier in the year.

Cassidy coached twenty-seven games for the Bruins, finishing with an 18-8-1 record and leading them to a first-round playoff matchup with the Ottawa Senators in the 2016-17 season, a series that they lost in six games. This led into last season, where Cassidy implemented his faith and passion for the young players of this league, helping lead the B’s to a 50-win season. Bruce was right behind the team for their first-round win over Toronto and stuck by them in the five-game loss to the Lightning. The year for Bruce led to him being one of the three nominees for the Jack Adams Award – awarding the best coach in the NHL for that season. While he didn’t take the award home, the honour of being nominated for it is a great accomplishment.

Again this year, Cassidy has done a great job. It has been a difficult road to manage the struggling youth that once succeeded for him not only in Providence but in Boston during 2017-18 as well, the goaltending challenges of Rask and Halak, and the whole offensive situation that I’ve discussed over.

With the older players such as Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, and Backes, being surrounded by the younger players such as Pastrnak, DeBrusk, McAvoy, Carlo, and Heinen, Cassidy has had a challenge of who to play with who at what time and when. For a team that seems to have rough nights, still battles back and is able to fight their way to earn a point or at the very least, remain competitive in the ever-so-difficult Eastern Conference.

Bruce Cassidy has a 97-45-21 record with the Boston Bruins since 2016-17. According to BostonGlobe.com’s Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD on Twitter), Claude Julien, the man who won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, had a 94-48-22 in his first 164 career games with the Black N’ Gold.

Julien and Cassidy are almost identical in their wins/losses and they have started almost a decade apart from each other (’07/’08 debut for CJ, ’16/’17 debut for BC). Bruce Cassidy is not only a good coach, but he should remain a coach for the Boston Bruins. He has had success and will continue to have success if the right players are on his lineup. Does he make mistakes time in and time out? Of course, not many coaches in any sport are perfect, (unless you’re Bill Belichick on New England) and it is how he can rally behind the team after a loss and turn it into a win. Bruce Cassidy can do that with the best of them.

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Claude Julien And His Legacy With The Boston Bruins

 

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Head Coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins helps Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins adjust the chin strap on his helmet during a second period time out against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 5, 2011, at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

By Andrew Thompson                                                                      Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

For a lot of Boston Bruins fans, Claude Julien will always have a warm spot in their hearts. He was the coach that helped the Black and Gold get back to the Stanley Cup.  He was one of the key figures in the B’s bringing the Cup back to Boston in 2011.  With 419 wins under his belt, it will be quite some time till another head coach takes that benchmark away from him.

Julien’s return earned him a tribute video during Wednesday’s nights game.

The B’s family came to their feet to give Julien a standing ovation. It was well deserved in this fan’s opinion.

On the other side of the coin, there are Bruins fans who don’t have such a soft spot for Claude. He didn’t seem to connect well with the young players. He kept engaging in a defensive-minded hockey system that alienated the more aggressive players on the squad.

Love him or hate him, the former Bruins bench boss came to town tonight. It’s the first time he’s been here as a member of the visiting team since he was dismissed by Cam Neely last season after spending nearly a decade with the B’s. Julien returned to Boston at the head of the infamous Montreal Canadiens, the B’s most loathed rivals.

(At this moment, you can hear your average Montreal fan muttering something about “24 cups”. It’s a pity they haven’t won any since the start of the salary cap era.)

Boston Bruins fans owe a debt of gratitude to Coach Claude. If it wasn’t for him, the Bruins roster would be missing an integral component of their current roster. If it wasn’t for Julien, it’s likely we wouldn’t have the ‘Little Ball of Hate’ in Boston.

Brad Marchand is the best example of what Claude Julien did for the Bruins. Marchand started in the NHL as a young player with a lot of talent, but absolutely no discipline. Marchand started his career in Boston as a fourth-line grinder, playing minimal minutes due to his unpredictable style of hockey.

Julien believed in Marchand’s potential. He pushed an undisciplined pest to become a more complete player. His lessons didn’t just cover what to do on the ice. Julien helped Marchand (who currently leads the team in goals and assists) temper his demeanor and make him a better professional player overall.

Had Brad Marchand not came to Boston during the Julien era, it is very possible that Marchand would have become one of those bottom-six pests that would have been bounced around the league, never finding a home in his career.

“He gave me an opportunity to play, dealt with me more than I think a lot of coaches would have, worked with me tirelessly,” said an appreciative Marchand of his former coach. “Had plenty of conversations about how to act and how to be a good player, a good pro, how to learn the game and become a better player.

“He definitely gave me a huge opportunity and allowed me to grow into a better player.”

“You could go through a lot of different things, but the biggest thing he preached to me was how to be a good pro and how to be consistent,” continued Marchand. “That’s one thing we talked about is consistency. And if you want to be in this league for a long time you have to be able to bring your best game every night or close to it. That was probably one of the biggest things I took away.”

Marchand has become an All-Star in the league. He has become less known for his agitations, and more for his skill. He’s advanced from a part-time grinder to an elite player that causes most teams fits on any given night. He’s #63 on the roster and #1 in the hearts of many fans (and a #2 to those who love Patrice Bergeron more).

Brad Marchand is part of the legacy of Claude Julien.  Love him or hate him, Julien’s place in the history of the Boston Bruins is secure.

Boston Bruins and Ryan Spooner Come To Terms On One-Year Deal

 

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Ryan Spooner #51 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Ottawa Senators in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canadian Tire Centre on April 15, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                   Twitter: @godwentwhoops

The Boston Bruins found a way to avoid arbitration with forward Ryan Spooner today, signing him to a one-year, $2.825 million dollar contract.  The contract is a near split down the middle from what the Bruins ($2 million) and Spooner ($3.85 million) wanted.

In the short term, both sides walked away with a win. Spooner got nearly a $ 2 million dollar raise. As for the Bruins, they now have all but one player (forward David Pastrnak) locked up going into camp in September.

Even with a contract, Spooner’s place in the lineup isn’t a lock.  He’ll be facing stiff competition from Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson in battling for the B’s third-line center position at training camp.

Spooner had some issues with Boston last season. He wasn’t the favorite of either head coach in Boston last year. Claude Julien had issues with his defensive game, and Bruce Cassidy had problems with his offensive game. Those issues caused him to be scratched in the final two playoff games against Ottawa last season.

The 25-year old Spooner had some issues last season with Boston . Spooner wasn’t the favorite of either head coach in Boston last year. Claude Julien had issues with his defensive game, and Bruce Cassidy had problems with his offensive game. Those issues caused him to be scratched in the final two playoff games against Ottawa last season.

At the end of the season, Cassidy called out Spooner for his liabilites on local media.

“Listen, we all know he’s not that guy that’s going to be planting himself in front of the net and absorbing hits every shift, but he still needs to attack with the puck when there is some open ice,” said Cassidy about Spooner. “And like I said, there wasn’t a lot, but there were creases out there where he could have used his foot speed, and that was the conversation with him. When those situations arose, we needed him to make his plays and attack. It didn’t happen, so we moved on to the next player. We’re here to win; we were kind of leaving it all out there and I thought our guys played hard, the guys that went in, so you kind of look at it as more give them credit for going in and doing their job and we’ll continue to work with Ryan.

“Listen, he’s a special talent. We’ve just got to continue to try to pull it out of him and see where it leads us.”

Spooner had 39 points (11 goals) last year for the Black and Gold. Those 39 points were good enough for sixth overall on the team, but it was a 10 point (2 goal) backslide from the year before.

While Spooner will have some place on the team this year, he’s going to have to prove he wants to be in Boston if he has any hope of staying with the team at the end of the upcoming season.

 

Boston Bruins: Shopping Ryan Spooner

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By Andrew Thompson         Follow Me On Twitter @godwentwhoops 

After several years of trying to find a spot for forward Ryan Spooner, it appears the Boston Bruins are looking to cut their losses. Will another team pick up the 25-year old in the offseason?

The Boston Bruins have struggled to find a place for forward Ryan Spooner. The former 2010 second-round draft pick has found himself going up and down the lines in an attempt to find himself a permanent position with the team.

Spooner’s greatest liability has been his consistency. Over the course of five years and two head coaches, the Bruins organization have made a sincere effort to help Spooner reach his potential. The end result was a mixed bag.

Claude Julien tried a lot of different approaches to get Spooner to fit in. Some were positive, others weren’t. Julien even went so far to publicly chastise Spooner in front of the Boston media (who can make a school of frenzied piranhas look tame).

When Bruce Cassidy took over, he also tried to find a spot for Spooner. Once Bruce Cassidy was ensconced as the team’s 28th head coach, he took a few moments to offer a frank and honest assessment of Spooner’s abilities.

“I thought it started well with Ryan,” offered Sweeney on Spooner. “He had some confidence, some jump; we were trying to incorporate him in the penalty kill, make him more of a 200-foot player, but I’ll tell you what my issue was at the end with Ryan: It was well-documented with Claude he didn’t like his defensive game and some of the other things.

“For me, I didn’t like his offensive game at the end. He wasn’t playing to his strengths, and that bothers me about players, if they’re not able to play to their strengths when the temperature of the game goes up.”


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Bruins President Don Sweeney’s opinion was similar. When asked about Spooner’s return to team, Sweeney was decidedly uncommitted.

“Well, to be determined,” said Sweeney said of Spooner’s status in Boston. “We’ll look at our roster and what our options are. He has options as well as an RFA and we’ll have discussions with his representatives and see where there’s a fit. Ryan struggled down the stretch, had a nice bump when Bruce first took over, the familiarity probably helped. Offensively it tailed off.”

After five seasons with the Black and Gold, it appears the Boston front office are looking to move the Jekyll-and-Hyde forward. According to Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News several teams have coming sniffing around the TD Garden in an attempt to grab the impending restricted free agent.

There are several teams out there that could use a player like him.  He’s capable of putting up 40 points in a season. The Canucks and the Devils could certainly use a middle-six/bottom-six center. As for the Golden Knights, they just might do us a favor and pick him as long as the Bruins don’t decide to protect him.

Ryan Spooner isn’t the worst player the Bruins have put on the ice these last few seasons. (This is the team that put Zac Rinaldo in the spoked ‘B’ without trying to be ironic after all.) But he’s maddeningly inconsistent. Some nights he’s clicking offensively. Other nights he’s a liability (Claude’s own word) for the B’s.

Spooner would like to stay in the Black and Gold. He knew that his game wasn’t what it needed to be at the end of the season. He only put up two points for Boston in the postseason, and his replacement Sean Kuraly netted two huge goals for the B’s in game five against the Ottawa Senators.

“I’ve been here since I’ve been 18, so it’s been a long time and I just want to help out,” said Spooner of his desire to stay in Boston.

“I definitely didn’t play to the top of my game.  I would have liked to score. I don’t think I scored in the last 20 games or something like that, so that definitely would have helped.”

 “I just need to be better than the last little bit of the season.”

In the end, moving Spooner might be the best thing for him.  He has the ability to be a solid NHL player, but he just can’t seem to click in the Bruins system. If moved, he could learn from this experience and become a more reliable NHL player.


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Boston Bruins: This Isn’t Just A Spark

 

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Boston Bruins

Nov 19, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner (51) skates with the puck during the 3rd period at TD Garden. The Bruins won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

By Spencer Lindsay     Follow Me On Twitter  @suspenceful9

In the (13) games since Bruce Cassidy has taken over as interim head coach, the Boston Bruins have soared upward. They have become one of the hottest teams in the NHL and have played to the tune of a 10-3-0 record in the era of Bruce Cassidy. In those 13 games, there have been noticeably good changes in the way the team is playing. The structure hasn’t changed much, most of the defensive zone play, neutral zone play, powerplay, and penalty kill structure has remained largely the same. The structure that did change? The way they attacked the net.

Bruce Cassidy told reporters in his first press conference as interim head coach that he wanted his players to use their skill more in the offensive zone to create better scoring chances. So far the team has reaped the rewards of that philosophy. Outscoring opponents 47 to 27 in that time and only dropping three games. They tallied wins against three division leaders, two of them being the San Jose Sharks, and the third being a 4-0 beat-down against the Bruins most hated rival, the Montreal Canadiens. Perhaps the most satisfying win of them all. With this recent improvement of play, the Bruins have soared back into a playoff spot, and appear poised to once again be playing hockey in April, rather than golf.

However, besides just winning and the hope of playoffs, there are other reasons to be excited as a Bruins fan right now. First of all, the Bruins have quite a few decent to potential star players in their farm system. Names like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and Jeremy Lauzon,  have the organization looking primed for the future. The Bruins also have arguably two of the better younger players in the NHL as well in David Pastrnak and Brandon Carlo. They even have the second overall point scorer in the NHL, in Brad Marchand, who has emerged as an elite talent in the league within the last two seasons.

All of these positives signs aside, there is one sign getting overlooked, and that is that the Bruins finally seem to have decided on a direction for the team, and even more re-assuring is that it happens to be the same direction the league is going.

Within the last 3 years, NHL fans have seen the size of the nets increased, the depth of the nets decreased to encourage plays behind the goal line, and rule changes regarding the size of the equipment that goalies can use. All of these changes were made with one purpose, and that was to increase scoring league wide. NHL executives realized that a 6-4 game is much more exciting to most fans than a 1-0 or a 2-1 overtime game, and took action to make the former results more plausible. It’s with these rule changes in mind that my reasoning comes for the Bruins finally moving with the league, instead of against it.

Under Claude Julien, the Bruins were continuing to play a more defensively minded game, and we saw what kind of results that brought. It seemed the Bruins were bound to come just short of a playoff spot again, and a rebuild would be almost certain. However, the roster that General Manager Don Sweeney was putting together the last two years did not have the proper players to play this defensive structure. That’s why more often than not, you saw players like Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano being underutilized because they weren’t responsible enough defensively, to fit with Claude Julien’s system. However league wide, players like Spooner and Vatrano seem to shine. Why is this? Coaches know their player’s strengths and weaknesses and put them in situations to shine, rather than fail.

Now, this is not saying that Claude Julien is a bad coach. Julien brought a cup back to Boston, something I and other Bruins fans are eternally grateful for. But he also was a big part of the reason the Bruins didn’t make the playoffs the last two seasons, and why they were close to not making the cut again this season. The NHL is going to get what they want, regardless of whether or not your team is on board with it. Playing a defensively minded game when the league has explicitly said and acted on the fact that they want more scoring seems redundant. If this team was going to continue with a defensive coach but an offensive roster, mediocrity would be its destiny until one of those things changed. With all these new rule changes to increase scoring, and Julien coaching his style, the Bruins would manage to be not the worst team in the league, but not the best either.

Thankfully, it seems as though with Bruce Cassidy at the helm, the Bruins are finally getting on board the offensive train. Albeit later than most teams, but not too late. In his time as coach, we’ve seen players like Adam Mcquaid suddenly activate offensively, going on a three-game point streak (the longest in his career) which included a beautiful backdoor goal against Carey Price. Other defensemen have also gotten involved more offensively as well with Kevan Miller scoring here and there, Colin Miller finally playing like the player we traded for, Brandon Carlo with a couple goals, you get the picture. The fact is, this is the way the league is going. Defenseman jumping in on the play instead of posting up at the blue line, teams having lines of just offensive forwards who rarely take defensive zone faceoffs, and forwards using their skating to create time and space.

So rest easy Bruins fans. The Bruins did not miss the offensive style train, they may have been late getting on, but the point is that they did get on.

New-Look Boston Bruins

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(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Court Lalonde (follow @courtlalonde)

With the Bruins in the first bye week in the history of their franchise, it gives us time to reflect on the last three games, also look to what’s ahead.

With three games under the new coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins are 3-0-0. During those games, the Bruins have played a much more high tempo than previously under Claude Julien. The defense has been jumping into the play in the offensive zone, taking high percentage shots, and finishing their checks. We have the same roster they started the season with, but they’re playing a different system, which is taking more chances to move the puck up the ice.

Bruce Cassidy was with the AHL Providence Bruins for nine seasons before being given the assistant job with the Bruins at the beginning go the season. Before being in the Bruins organization, he was the coach of the Washington Capitals from 2002-2004.

Claude had been in Boston for the past ten years, and their system focused on defense first, he has coached that way every team he has coached one. Some fans might say it’s boring hockey to watch, but it worked for a period. In the past couple of years, the NHL has gotten younger and faster, and teams were beginning to outskate the Bruins with the old system. Claude is no longer with us, and maybe it was just time for a change.

Over the past three games, Cassidy has done a little shuffling of the lines with great success. David Pastrnak is back on a line with David Krejci, and both have points in the last three games. Pastrnak has three goals and one assist and Krejci has one goal and three assists. David Backes has been move up to Patrice Bergeron’s line and has been a welcome addition to complement both Bergeron and Brad Marchand. It has allowed the Bruins to balance their attack on opposing clubs and the results have been on the score sheet.

Boston has outscored their opponents by a 14-6 margin during the three games and have recorded wins against San Jose, Vancouver, and Montreal. The win against Montreal at home, was the first win at TD Garden against the Habs since January 12th, 2012.  Two of those teams are in first place in their respected divisions, and the Bruins got a win from the backup goaltender for the second time this year. The Bruins power play has scored four goals in three games and move up to 14th in the league with a percentage of 20.1%, while the penalty kill is the best in the NHL with an 86.3% and scored a short-handed goal.

The scoring has not just come from the forwards; the defense has scored four goals in the last three games. The defense has been jumping into the rush and allowing the Bruins to catch teams off guard and create scoring chances. Colin Miller and Torey Krug have benefited from this new system by moving the puck up faster in transition and taking advantage of our winger’s speed. A big question mark was how veteran Zdeno Chara would play in this faster transition game at his age. Chara didn’t look out of place, jumped into the rush and scored a statement short-handed goal against Montreal in the 4-0 win.

In the game against Montreal, Tuukka Rask passed Frank Brimsek on the all-time list for career shutouts for a Bruins goalies to second on the list. Tiny Thompson is first on the list, with 74 and he has 36.  Rask now has six shutouts this year, with a 2.27 GAA, a .912 SV%, and 27 wins going into the break.

The break hasn’t been friendly to the teams that have had it so far this year. The bye week was an exchange for the 3-on-3 tournament for the all-star game. Players won’t have to report to practice until after 4:00 pm on the fifth day if they have a game on the sixth day. The record for teams coming off the break so far this year is 3-9 which is why this break probably came at the worst time for the Bruins. I’m sure they will poll the players at the end of the year to see if the bye week was a success and it will come back with a no.

Our hope is the Bruins start the four-game road trip with the same intensity that they have had in the previous three games. They will be in tough with games against San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Dallas. Their new system will play well against these west-coast teams, and they know they can beat San Jose. They will take it day-by-day and now that Claude has another job that distraction should be behind them. The leaders in the room need to show it on the ice, and the players will follow.

The jury is still out on these new-look Bruins and their intern coach Bruce Cassidy. There is no way that we can say that the coaching change was a success yet, we haven’t had a big enough sample size. We will see how this team performs after the break and where the team is in the standings after as well. If they still have a playoff spot when they play the Sharks on Sunday, they should count their lucky stars. If they don’t, hopefully, they will continue the winning ways and control their destiny moving forward.