What Are Bruins Looking For In Next Head Coach? Don Sweeney Explains

Boston's search is underway after moving on from Bruce Cassidy

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June 7

The Boston Bruins’ search for a new bench boss is underway.

The Bruins relieved Bruce Cassidy of his head-coaching duties Monday, a decision general manager Don Sweeney called “very, very difficult” Tuesday during a news conference at Warrior Ice Arena.

Sweeney explained that Cassidy’s message wasn’t being received as it had in the past, and thus the Bruins will enter the 2022-23 NHL season with a new voice in the dressing room.

“I have a list of candidates,” Sweeney told reporters. “But the search is going to take me some time to go through and do my due diligence and continue to talk to our staff and interview from a wide base and learn about what other people outside the game — how they view our younger players and how they view our team as it is.”

So, what qualities are the Bruins looking for in their next head coach?

“I’m still going to be a process-driven and structure guy,” Sweeney said. “I do believe that we can continue to evolve in involving our defense. We’ve been an upper-echelon power play and penalty killing team. I think that needs to remain. You’re seeing that rear its head in the playoffs. You watch Florida have a ridiculously good power play during the regular season and it sputtered in the playoffs, and it probably cost them a little bit. So, I think those are difference makers as you’re going along.

“Again, I don’t dictate how the refereeing is going to go, but I think you’re seeing a trend in that area that special teams are certainly playing a big part of it and the goaltending is going to be a part of it. So, the coach has to have the communication skills to be able to bridge that gap with older and younger players. I think that’s paramount now with integration.”

The potential influx of youth was a common theme noted Tuesday by Sweeney. Patrice Bergeron hasn’t decided whether he’ll return for a 19th season, and the Bruins are dealing with some injuries that could sideline Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and/or Matt Grzelcyk to begin the 2022-23 campaign.

Such uncertainty obviously creates a tricky situation. But circumstance might open the door for younger players — just as it did for David Pastrnak in 2014 — and whoever replaces Cassidy will be responsible for maximizing the potential of Boston’s new arrivals.

“Those will be the challenges: that we try and find the balance of development and an infusion of talent, and the new coach is going to have to be able to communicate and bridge that gap from older players, communicating with them and holding them to a standard that I think we all feel is necessary,” Sweeney said. “And in this town, it is necessary to hold a team to a competitive standard. That coach has to walk that walk.”

Worth noting: Prior NHL coaching experience might not necessarily be a job requirement. Sweeney acknowledged such Tuesday, which could, in theory, lead to a few outside-the-box candidates as the search progresses.

“I’m certainly going to be open-minded,” Sweeney said. “I’m going to cast the net a little wider. I don’t think it’s an absolute prerequisite. As I’ve said, we’ve got an experienced group of guys that want to win, know how to win and a young group of guys as the next core — Charlie (McAvoy) and David (Pastrnak) being part of that, that hopefully can bridge and will continue to bridge the next group of young guys that will come in.

“Now, the coach needs to direct that ship and be able to communicate effectively across all those age groups. And that’s certainly why I want to make sure I cast the net wide enough. I don’t believe it’s an absolute prerequisite to have a coach (who’s been) behind an NHL bench.”

Cassidy had a mostly successful run in Boston, leading the Bruins to six straight playoff appearances, including the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, after replacing Claude Julien midway through the 2016-17 season.

The B’s simply weren’t able to get over the hump, though, and it’ll be incumbent upon Cassidy’s successor to usher in a new era as Boston seeks its first Cup victory since 2011.

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