The Boston Bruins are bringing Bruce Cassidy back next season, dropping the interim tag from his title as a reward for leading the team back to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
Cassidy replaced Claude Julien, the winningest coach in the history of the Original Six franchise, on Feb. 8 and led the team to an 18-8-1 record to finish out the season and earn a postseason berth. They were eliminated on Sunday by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the first round.
Julien led the Bruins to the NHL championship in 2011 and back to the Stanley Cup finals in 2013. But they missed the postseason the last two seasons and were out of playoff position on Feb. 8, having lost six of their last nine games, when Julien was fired.
After Cassidy took over, the Bruins led the league in goals per game and tied for second in wins. They won their first four games after the change and added a six-game winning streak to clinch a playoff berth. In all, they went 18-8-1 to close out the season, finishing third in the Atlantic Division.
"It was for sure something that shook up the whole team, all of the players, the whole organization," defenseman Zdeno Chara said. "We'd had a coach that has been here for 10 years and he'd done a lot of good things, created a lot of personal relationships, and obviously, was here when we won a Stanley Cup.
"But I thought that kind of brought a true realization that we needed to be better and was a big wake-up call for everybody. I think from that day, we really started playing a little bit more together and we were getting results."
But they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Senators. Afterward, players expressed their hope that Cassidy would return.
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"We obviously had some success with Butch and it shows with the way that we played," defenseman Torey Krug said. "The guys were excited to play for him. I think the guys in this room would echo that same message and hopefully it does happen. It's out of our hands, but the guys like playing for him."
Cassidy, 51, had spent five seasons as head coach of the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Providence before joining Julien's staff as an assistant this season. He coached the Washington Capitals for parts of two seasons from 2002-04, leading them to 39-29-8-6 record and a postseason berth in his first season with the team.
A left-handed defenseman, Cassidy was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1983 who recorded four goals and 13 assists in 36 career NHL games. He also played in the OHL, AHL and IHL, as well as in Italy and Germany.