It's no secret that Bruce Cassidy has been a successful head coach with the Bruins. But what many have forgotten, or maybe not even realized, is that his first time around as an NHL bench boss didn't go as swimmingly.
For the 2002-03 season, Cassidy was head coach of the Washington Capitals. The team finished with 92 points, but were out in the first round. Things took a turn for the worse the next season when Cassidy's Caps started out 8-18-1, leading to him losing his job.
After Monday's practice, Cassidy explained what he's learned since those days.
"To be honest, all I learned was I'm a lot more comfortable in my own skin now than I was then," he said. "I was young, I'd had really no NHL experience. I was out in Chicago for a bit. You walk into an NHL locker room and to me there was still a little awe. These guys have been around. So it took me awhile to walk in there and say be comfortable, this is what we're doing today and have the confidence and still do as a communicator."
Cassidy's old days were brought into the limelight when Bates Battaglia, a former player of Cassidy's during 2003-04, ripped him apart on the podcast Spittin' Chiclets.
"Oh yeah, piece of [expletive] -- tip to tail," Battaglia said. "Never liked that guy. I don't know how he is still a coach. It boggles my mind -- I honestly didn't know he was still coaching. I randomly saw a highlight, as you can tell I don't follow the [NHL] a whole lot. I watch some, but I am not a die hard, but I saw him on the screen and couldn't believe it. It just shows how good Boston is, that they were playing well despite him."
Battaglia explained why he wasn't a good coach.
"Just unprepared," he said. "Just unorganized. Maybe things have changed. I hope they have. But yeah, that was not my bread and butter there with him."
Since taking over as head coach of the Bruins, Cassidy's record is an astounding 117-52-22.
"When you're around the game for an extra 15 years, you learn stuff," said Cassidy. "Different ways to communicate, different ways to see the game, how to delegate, how to use your staff, how to use your top-end players to help you find that common goal. I think that was the biggest difference. A lot of newness back then. This time around there's a lot more experience at this level."
Sean Kuraly would certainly disagree with the outside criticism Cassidy received.
"I think he's just really a talented coach," he said. "I think he's got good ideas and he sees the game well and he feels the game well. I think everyone that makes it to this point is doing something right so yeah, he just does all that stuff well and he's a smart hockey guy."
When Cassidy took over as coach in February of 2017, the team's future wasn't looking too great. They missed the playoffs in the previous two seasons and at the time, it looked as if they'd be going for three straight years.
But there's one thing that helped Cassidy take control of the ship.
"I think this leadership group is second to none and I don't know if I'll ever have, wherever this career takes me, a group like this to work with," said Cassidy. "I've said that since probably the second I got the job here. Those guys are fantastic and they sure make a coach's job a lot easier."
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