Bruins Coaching Will Be Different but the Same Next Season

The Stanley Cup didn’t find its new home in Boston, but the Boston Bruins had a great season, mostly thanks to their coaching staff. Here’s a look at the changes to the coaching staff and what went down with head coach Bruce Cassidy in 2020-21. 

Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy
Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

On July 2, the Bruins announced their assistant coach Jay Pandolfo is leaving the organization to take a similar position with Boston University’s men’s ice hockey team. Cassidy is expected to stick with the Bruins, despite taking his fair share of criticism.

Assistant Coach Jay Pandolfo Leaving Bruins For Boston University Hockey

After five seasons with the Bruins, Pandolfo has decided to go back to his roots. He is heading to Boston University, where he played in the 1990s and wore the “C” for the 1995-96 season when he played 40 games and scored 38 goals and 67 points. He was also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which honors the top National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s ice hockey player

Albie O’Connell, head coach of the BU team, expressed his excitement for Pandolfo to return: “Jay is from one of the all-time great families who have been a part of BU hockey and we are thrilled to welcome him back.” 

He also mentioned their similar outlook on the game. “He had a terrific career as a Terrier and then went on to play and coach at the peak of professional hockey,” O’Connell said. “Through our recent talks, it’s clear that Jay shares the same vision and direction for our program. He was an outstanding captain my freshman year and I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

Pandolfo joined the Bruins in 2016, and before that, he spent two years working in the club’s front office in player development. He had a 15-year NHL career as a player, after being drafted by the New Jersey Devils 32nd overall and played 899 games with the Devils, New York Islanders, and Bruins. He also won two Stanley Cups with the Devils in 2000 and 2003. 

It’s still unknown who will take over his job and work alongside Cassidy next season. 

Cassidy Expected to Stay

Cassidy is expected to be behind the Bruins’ bench next season. Like him or not, you can’t deny that he’s been a huge factor in the team’s success. 

He just finished his fourth full season in Boston after becoming the team’s 28th head coach in franchise history on April 26, 2017. He has a 161-66-34 record in 261 games, and his 356 points rank second in the NHL over that span. He also has a career win percentage of .682. 

Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and bench, Game 7, 2019 Stanley Cup Final
Cassidy won the Jack Adams Award in 2020 (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Cassidy’s success with the franchise doesn’t end there. He pushed the Bruins to earn the NHL’s best record in the 2019-20 season (44-14-12) and won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach, becoming the fourth coach in team history to do so. 

Fans were disappointed and frustrated with the way the Bruins’ season ended, a Game 6 loss in round 2 against the Islanders. Yet, we can’t ignore how Cassidy has ultimately made the Bruins the strong and feisty team they are today.  

Cassidy Officiating Controversy and Rocky Relationship With DeBrusk

Despite Cassidy’s success in Boston, last season had some controversial takes.

He was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officiating in Game 5 of the Islanders series. In the post-game presser, he stated, “I think they sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the ‘New York Saints,’ not the New York Islanders. You know, they play hard and they play the right way. But I feel we’re the same way and the calls, the exact calls, that are getting called on us do not get called on them.” 

He further argued that the officials’ calls were persuaded by “outside influences.” “I don’t think they [the officials] were great tonight, I’m not going to lie to you,” he stated. “But they have been, and they’re good officials, I know those two guys — they’re good guys, good officials. I don’t know, tonight I just thought they were off.”

Head coach Bruce Cassidy
Cassidy is expected to be back behind the bench in 2021-22 (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Cassidy also bluntly expressed his disappointment with Jake DeBrusk’s performance. The 24-year-old is coming off his fourth season with the Bruins, but that is about the only thing he can be proud of. DeBrusk scored 14 points in 41 games, a career-low. During the dreadful season, he was scratched three times in the regular season and in Game 5 against the Islanders. 

After their 4-1 loss in Game 4, Cassidy stated, “The third line didn’t generate much last night.” He went on to say, “Well, it didn’t generate anything to be honest with you. They’ve had better games. Obviously a breakdown on the last goal. I think our winger [DeBrusk] dove down. We should’ve had more patience and let them get to the middle of the ice, and that kind of snowballed from there where guys were a little late because we didn’t do our job first. So that part of it hurt us.”

Jake Debrusk Boston Bruins
Jake Debrusk, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Cassidy called out DeBrusk’s poor performance earlier in the season when he spoke to the media: “At the end of the day, we’re not quite getting out of Jake what we want. Some of that is circumstance and situational, he’s moved around, been hurt… but I still feel he’s been given ice time to perform to [the] best of his ability. We just feel that we’re not getting the effort that’s required.” 

Sitting DeBrusk might have been Cassidy’s way of showing tough love while still believing in him, or it might have been his way of telling his winger that if he doesn’t get his act together, his time with the Bruins will be up sooner than later. 

Who do you think would be a good fit behind the bench to replace Pandolfo next season? Do you think Cassidy was too harsh on DeBrusk this season? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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