It was no secret that Bruce Cassidy would not hold back when talking about some of his players with the media during his time as head coach of the Boston Bruins. Not only was it some of the younger players, but veterans were also called out a different times. It could easily be seen that playing for Cassidy could have been tough on some players.
When the Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney fired Cassidy on June 6, it took three and a half weeks to find his replacement when it was announced that Jim Montgomery was being hired as the 29th coach in franchise history on July 1. A coaching change can be the best-case scenario for some players and some of the Bruins’ younger talented players can benefit from a different voice in the locker room. If that ends up being the case, here are three players that can benefit from a new coach in the 2022-23 regular season.
In November, it was announced that Jake DeBrusk had requested a trade from the Bruins through his agent following being a healthy scratch against the Vancouver Canucks. Sweeney held onto the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft through the March trade deadline, despite signing him to a two-year, $8 million contract extension, which at the time seemed like a logical move to make it easier to trade the 25-year-old.
Instead, he was promoted to the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and finished the season with the second 20-goal season of his career with 25. It’s no secret that DeBrusk and Cassidy clashed over the last couple of seasons from Cassidy calling out DeBrusk through the media in his press conferences, to being a healthy scratch multiple times in the regular season and once in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs in a pivotal Game 5 against the New York Islanders.
There is no doubt that DeBrusk has the talent to be a top-six forward and produce 20-plus goals a season. It appeared over the last two seasons that he lacked confidence, played with a lot of weight on his shoulders, and did not compete shift after shift. Monday, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reported that DeBrusk notified Sweeney through his agent Rick Valette last week that he was rescinding his trade request. Sometimes a change of scenery can be big for a player, or in this case, maybe a coaching change can be big for a player too.
Since being drafted 53rd overall in the second round of the 2017 Entry Draft, Jack Studnicka has been considered the center in waiting for when Bergeron and the veterans on the depth chart either retire or move on. Unfortunately for Studnicka, just when it looks like he’s ready to carve out a top-nine role, either the front office blocks him by signing veterans or he’s brought up and put in a role as a right-wing where he has struggled.
No doubt that Studnicka is most effective as a center. In training camp last season when David Krejci left to return to his home country to continue his career, Studnicka was battling Charlie Coyle for the No. 2 center spot behind Bergeron. Coyle ended up missing most of camp with a nagging injury and Studnicka shined and the case could have been made that he earned the spot, but he was sent down to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL).
As he has done in previous seasons in the AHL, Studnicka went down there, improved his game, and once again will be knocking on the door of an NHL spot. He is a restricted free agent (RFA) this season, but all signs point to the Bruins retaining him and giving him a shot once again in training camp in September. Montgomery helped center Robert Thomas have a big breakout in the 2021-22 season for the Blues and he could the same with Studnicka.
Surprisingly in the first round of the 2016 Draft, Sweeney went out of the box and selected Trent Frederic. It was a rocky road to the NHL, but the former University of Wisconsin standout made the roster out of camp for the 56-game shortened 2020-21 season as a fourth-liner. He bounced in and out of the lineup all season, but cemented a more permeant role in 2021-22.
He ended up solidifying the third line with Coyle and Craig Smith following Cassidy’s line shuffles. There were moments during the season when you would watch him play and think that he was figuring out his game, making a contribution, and growing from his antics as a younger player. In late March and early April, he found himself as a healthy scratch and he struggled in the playoffs. He was another player that caught the ire and frustration of Cassidy.
There have been some expectations placed on him because he was a first-round pick, but projected as a second-round pick, and Sweeney picking him in the first round was not his fault. He is a tough gritty player that gets caught up in too much of the little stuff in a game. Is he going to produce as a top-six forward? Most likely not, however, he could be a good third-line piece that does his job on a nightly basis. Just like the two names above him, he could easily benefit from a new voice in his ear on a daily basis.
Montgomery is considered a players coach, something you could not say about Cassidy, who was tough and told it like it was, all signs you won’t get them from Montgomery publicly as Cassidy did. Montgomery has had success in the USHL, NCAA, and the NHL by helping young talented players develop, and DeBrusk, Studnicka, and Frederic could benefit from that in 2022-23.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.