BOSTON – As one would expect, the Bruins viewed getting back into the Stanley Cup playoffs and introducing some young players into the NHL fold this season as a positive step in the right direction.
It was certainly better than choking down the stretch in each of the previous two seasons to miss the playoff cut by a point, and there’s no doubt the Black and Gold compass is pointed in the right direction when Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak are building up their experience to help carry Boston into the next hockey generation.
The hiring of Bruce Cassidy “to a multi-year deal” as their 28th head coach this week was also a positive move after he guided them to an 18-8-1 record down the stretch after the firing of Claude Julien. But Bruins GM Don Sweeney also cautioned at the press conference announcing Cassidy’s hiring that there is still a long way to go for the Bruins before they can be anywhere close to a legit Cup contender. That will be the challenge this summer after finally gaining a foothold.
“The way our team responded to his message, we had an aggressive bent to our game, we scored more goals and didn’t lose any of our defensive structure or foundation,” said Sweeney. “Our penalty kill remained tops in the league and our power play got better as the year went along, and to me it spoke to the change that our team responded to, our core players responded to and our young players responded to.
“I felt very comfortable moving forward that Bruce will do a great job, and that our staff overall did a very good job. We have a lot of work to do as an organization still. We want to become a deeper, more talented team from top-to-bottom. Taking one step forward, in my opinion, is not successful. It’s a good step, but we have work to do in a lot of areas if we want to continue to get better.”
Sweeney listed the “middle of the [forward] lineup, transition-minded defensemen and the backup goaltender position” as places he had in mind for offseason upgrades. Those were glaring areas of need throughout the regular season and postseason.
More specifically on Sweeney’s to-do list: a left wing to be paired with David Krejci, a revamping of a third line that underachieved far too often and another top-four defenseman capable of moving the puck to go along with a more dependable backup goaltender situation than the Jekyll and Hyde performance from Anton Khudobin last season.
Clearly, it's a very good thing there's no level of satisfaction from the Bruins management group after getting things pointed in the proper direction. It’s an ambitious offseason checklist for Sweeney to be sure. But those are the kinds of upgrades and improvements the Bruins need if they’re to become the “deeper, more talented team” than the group that finally gained some traction this season.