The Boston Bruins entered the Stanley Cup playoffs with championship aspirations, so it’s probably safe to say the team collectively felt a great deal of disappointment after being eliminated by the New York Islanders in the second round last week.
Still, it’s on Bruce Cassidy as head coach to find the right words in that moment, first to put the entire season into perspective, and then to turn the page before breaking for the offseason.
So, what was Cassidy’s message to the Bruins immediately after their Game 6 loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum?
“Well, there’s not much to say after you lose, I’ve learned that over the years,” Cassidy told reporters Monday during a video conference. “Usually, the captain has a few words for the players. Individually, as players sorted through, it is more about their game, where they fit in with this team, what is happening going forward. And some of that changes for every player. So, there’s a bit of an unknown.
“For example, the unrestricted guys that just got here, ‘Where are you at with the Bruins?’ There’s questions about that, what they saw here that they didn’t see at other places so we can continue to get better, get positive feedback, negative feedback, whatever feedback we can get. Then, obviously, discuss with the players what his role is going forward if there is that interest.
“So, those are things that are generally said with the guys that there’s some uncertainty. With other guys, you’re sitting back and reviewing a little bit of their season and where they can grow their game. What they need from us, what do they expect.”
The Bruins certainly have some decisions to make this offseason, as several key players — including Tuukka Rask, David Krejci and Taylor Hall — are set to become free agents. As such, more conversations will be had in the weeks and months ahead.
It’s often difficult to focus too much on the future immediately following a postseason exit, though, and Cassidy thus chose his messaging carefully so as to let the moment breathe a little bit.
“Like I said, everything is very raw right after,” Cassidy said. “I believe sometimes, as a player, it’s in one ear and out the other. They’re kind of focused on what just happened, what’s in their immediate next day, what’s going on. Because they’re out of their routine. I never try to get too deep right away, simply because of that. Let the dust settle a little bit, let them digest what just happened and then let’s have honest conversations about where we can end up three or four days down the road once they’ve sort of taken it in.”
The Bruins have made the playoffs in all five of Cassidy’s seasons behind the bench. They’ve advanced to at least the second round four times, which includes reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.
A title has eluded Cassidy to this point, but the B’s have been knocking on the door. Perhaps next season will be when they finally break it down.