Bruce Cassidy’s wife and kids enjoyed his NHL coach of the year honors more than he did.
Cassidy went back to coaching.
More than a week since his Boston Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs, Cassidy spent time Wednesday after learning he won the Jack Adams Award watching the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders play Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final. As much as he’d like to still be competing for the Stanley Cup, Cassidy keeps his eyes on coaches Barry Trotz and Jon Cooper hoping to pick up a thing or two that could help next year and beyond.
“Just want to watch the game and A) be entertained and B) steal some ideas from either side and then watch the coaches a little bit,” Cassidy said. “They’re two excellent guys, Coop and Barry, that you can learn from every day.”
Cassidy’s Bruins lost to Cooper’s Lightning in five games last round and in the 2018 playoffs, when Tampa Bay lost to Trotz’s Washington Capitals. This year, Boston didn’t have Vezina trophy finalist goaltender Tuukka Rask after he abruptly opted out in the middle of the first round for family reasons and thrust backup Jaroslav Halak into the starting role.
But Cassidy and the organization were vocal in their support of Rask and he said the Lightning “deserved to win” because they got to their style of game faster than the Bruins. Watching this series might help solve the mystery of how that happened.
“When you get two really good teams where there’s not a lot to pick from, that’s usually the difference,” Cassidy said. “That’s why I watch that: to see who does and then how do they do that.”
Cassidy has already learned a lot in his second NHL head coaching stint more than a decade after flaming out with Washington. He jokes that meeting his wife, Julie, there was the best thing that came out of coaching the Capitals but also says being 17 years older should make him better at this job.
That was evidenced by him taking over mid-2016-17 season for Claude Julien and taking the Bruins to the playoffs that season and the past three. He coached Boston to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year.
Cassidy won his first Jack Adams for leading the Bruins to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular-season team. They were six points ahead of the next-closest team in the standings when the season came to a halt in March.
Philadelphia’s Alain Vigneault was a close second and Columbus’ John Tortorella a more distant third in the voting, which is done by broadcasters.
While Cassidy watches the Islanders and Lightning battle it out for the Eastern Conference crown, Bruins management is in the early stages of prepping for a critical offseason. Boston will have to decide whether to offer a long-term deal to 29-year-old defenseman Torey Krug, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
Boston will also have to look at the goaltending situation, starting with Rask, 33, who has one year left on his deal with a cap hit of $7 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.