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July 9, 2017 | 9:40am ET
Bruins Cassidy, "Let Kids Learn On the Job"


BOSTON, MA -- On May 20, 2015, the day Don Sweeney took over as the Boston Bruins General Manager, the new boss made it clear that his club needed to get younger.

Over the last two seasons, Sweeney has held good on his promise with the additions of players such as defensemen Charlie McAvoy (19 years of age), and Brandon Carlo (20), along with forward Noel Acciari (25), while forwards such as Sean Kuraly (24), Peter Cehlarik (21), Austin Czarnik (25), and blue liners Rob O’Gara (24) and Matt Grzelczyk (23) have earned call ups from Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate Providence Bruins.

During the recent Bruins Development Camp, head coach Bruce Cassidy met with the media and explained that Sweeney’s formula for success is taking root and will continue to be implemented.

Cassidy conveyed that going with a younger lineup has worked for the two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The coach also disclosed that veterans on the roster need to play a role in bringing the youngsters along from Day One.

“Patience,” Cassidy said. “You have to let these kids grow up on the job if they can handle it every day. I do believe that there needs to be a conversation with your leaders. With these young kids that are going to play. Let’s say (Patrice) Bergeron and Marsh (Brad Marchand), we’re spitballing here, but let’s say one of these young kids goes and plays with that line. I have to convince those two guys that they have to pull this kid along, whatever kid it happens to be, because that will make us a better team if we can spread the wealth and use other players in different roles.

“Maybe if (David) Backes plays on a line with, let’s say JFK (rookie Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson), a 200-foot center that we have, if he starts in that role, that he would have to mentor. I think that’s a conversation we have to have. Krech (David Krejci), if there’s a young left winger on his side. You’ve got to work with this kid. You can get frustrated with him at times, but you have to work with him and you have to pull him along if we’re going to be the team that we want to be. So, can these young kids handle it? Can they even play in those positions? If they can, they show the ability to do that, then we need the (older) guys to help them through the mental part of that. That’s kind of a challenge, I think, for the coach, is to get those older guys to buy into it.

“We’ll use Pittsburgh, because they just won two cups, as an example of it. Clearly, they found that formula to be successful. I don’t know how Sid (Sidney Crosby) treats the (Conor) Shearys of the world, the (Evgeni) Malkins, or (Bryan) Rusts, but they’ve pulled (them) along. And (Jake) Guentzel, throw him into that mix. I don’t know the conversation that went into it. But clearly, there had to have been one and there had to have been a buy-in for these older guys to play with these guys and vice-versa, the younger guys to accept these conversations and learn from them.

“That’s the challenge. I think that will be our biggest challenge, and one I’m looking forward to because I do believe some of these young kids, assuming they’re ready, and we’ve talked about it, until they get on the ice and show it, that could make us a much better, stronger team if we incorporate those younger guys.“

Cassidy pointed out that it is too early to have the conversations of which he spoke simply because it is not known which players will be ready to make the jump from the AHL, NCAA, or junior hockey, to the NHL at this point in the calendar year.

“Not yet,” said the coach when asked if he had spoken to his veterans concerning new players. “There were two things. First of all, they had to be signed and here (Development Camp) for the younger ones. And second of all, free agency. If we had addressed areas of free agency where maybe these kids wouldn’t have had that opportunity, or at least on paper, I don’t know if you need to have that conversation. So, we wanted to let a couple of these dates play out as we get closer to camp and it looks like, hey, this is what we’ve got. I think those are the conversations. They will take place, trust me. I don’t know how they’ll go. They may say, hey, you know what? I’m more comfortable with Pasta (David Pastrnak), Backes, I’ll use Bergy (Patrice Bergeron) as an example. But, I think they’re terrific individuals and I think they’ll do whatever it takes for the team’s success. So, I’m actually looking forward to the conversations. I just don’t know which players are going in there, obviously. But, I’m hoping we can mix some youth with our veteran, skilled, leadership guys.”

Asked which players may have an inside chance at being added to that mix, Cassidy was cautious with his answer.

“I saw (Providence) in the playoffs,” Cassidy stated. “Danton Heinen played very well, his game has grown. I would expect him to push for one of those jobs. (Jake) Debrusk had a really good year down there in terms of his development trajectory. His 200-foot game is good. (Anders) Bjork, I did not see (play for Notre Dame). (Zach) Senyshyn played one game. So, I don’t want to comment on one hockey game. I’m using those four guys. Cehlarik, I saw here (Boston) for 10 games. He did some very good things. Our team played well when he was here. He had an injury, so I don’t know how close to ready he will be to compete or not. But, those are some guys that we’re hoping will push some of the depth players that we’ve signed.”

Cassidy, who will enter his first full season behind the Boston bench in October, added that, as is customary in the NHL, the club’s General Manager will make the final decisions on who wears the spoked-B on his chest when the 2017-18 season commences and that all decisions will be made with the intent of giving the Bruins the best opportunity of having a successful year.

“That’s going to be his (Sweeney’s) call, yes,” said Cassidy. “First and foremost, he may decide we’re too young, guys aren’t ready. We need more established guys. He may say, ‘let’s let it play out and let the best man win,’ which a lot of times is good, assuming you have guys that are capable. That’s where the disconnect may or may not be. I like these young kids. I’m hoping that, and I understand, and I’m hearing that these guys are ready to compete for NHL jobs. Listen, on October 1, we’re going to have to have some of those answers.”

Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.


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