One of the persisting narratives surrounding Bruce Cassidy's firing as Boston Bruins head coach in June of 2022 was that he didn't connect well enough or do a good job developing young players.
His style of coaching can be a little tough for certain guys. He's not afraid to call out players both publicly and privately. Another criticism of Cassidy was that he treated younger players differently than veterans in some ways. Did Cassidy change his coaching style in that regard when he went to the Vegas Golden Knights?
"I don't know (if I did) a lot. I always disliked that narrative," Cassidy told WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Wednesday morning. "When I took over the Bruins, we brought in (Matt) Grzelcyk, (Brandon) Carlo, (Charlie) McAvoy, (Jeremy) Lauzon, (Connor) Clifton, (Jake) DeBrusk, (Anders) Bjork, (Danton) Heinen. We brought in a lot of young guys. Some of them had success, others we moved on from for different reasons. But there were a lot of young players. And then it continued right to the end. I thought we brought in some more young guys, and David Pastrnak was a young guy then.
"For me, I thought we coached those guys well, for the most part. They had success, and they're probably going to be the foundation of the Bruins going forward, some of them. And I've kept in touch with some of them. So I don't know if (the narrative) is accurate, I think it's more the messaging that some players didn't like, but in terms of making them better players I thought we did a good job as a staff with that. So that's what I took to Vegas.
"Maybe in today's game you can't be as direct, especially with the media, but Boston is a little different market. They asked a question and I answered it. That I took a little bit with me: How does it affect everyone else? Be a little more careful. I've never been a vanilla guy answering questions, and that part will probably always stay with me."
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The Bruins did integrate a lot of young players into the lineup during Cassidy's tenure, and a bunch of them had success.
McAvoy is a top seven defenseman in the NHL and finished top five in Norris Trophy voting twice under Cassidy. Grzelcyk and Carlo became legit top-four defensemen under Cassidy. Clifton transformed into an everyday player and a solid third-pairing defenseman. There was a lot made of Cassidy's relationship with DeBrusk, but the young winger scored 19-plus goals three times under the former B's head coach, including 25- and 27-goal campaigns. Pastrnak blossomed into a superstar in Cassidy's system as well.
At the end of the day, the coach can only work with what he's given by the general manager, and Don Sweeney's poor drafting didn't provide Cassidy with a ton of high-end young talent during his six-plus seasons behind the bench. Could Cassidy have done some things differently with a few young players? Sure, but overall, his performance in that area was more than fine.
And it all worked out for Cassidy, who left the Bruins and led the Golden Knights to their first Stanley Cup title last season. The Golden Knights are mostly a veteran team, but they had a couple younger players play key roles in the playoffs, so there's no question Cassidy is capable of maximizing the production of inexperienced guys.