September 12, 2019 | 11:00AM ET
By Shawn Hutcheon, The Fourth Period
BRUINS GO TO CAMP WITH QUESTIONS AND EXTENSION
Brad Marchand, forward
BOSTON, MA -- When we last saw the Boston Bruins, they were skating off the ice at TD Garden after sustaining a heartbreaking 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
After a short summer to reflect on his club coming as close to winning the Stanley Cup as a team possibly can, head coach Bruce Cassidy spoke on the eve of training camp about what he and the organization will focus on once his players hit the ice in preparation for the 2019-20 NHL season.
With Boston’s deep playoff run in the rear-view mirror, Cassidy will deliver the message that a new season is on the horizon and the time for dwelling on the loss to the Blues has come to an end.
“I’m hoping we’re not talking about it (2019 Stanley Cup Final) after day one (of training camp),” Cassidy said at the team’s preseason golf outing. “It’s done. It’s over. We’ve got a few new players. It’s not the same team. A new year. We’ve got to get ready to be our best going into game one (of the new season) against Dallas and then onto Arizona. I hope we don’t have a (playoff) hangover. I know I certainly don’t intend to have one. Again, I don’t want to talk about it after the next four or five days. It was a good year. We fell one game short. Now, we gotta work on getting back to that position and not falling one game short.”
Unfortunately, there may be talk about last spring’s postseason during training camp due to some injuries that have not fully healed yet. Injuries to some pretty significant players may mean a late start to the season for them.
Captain Zdeno Chara sustained multiple fractures to his jaw from a puck to the face in Game 4 against St. Louis while also playing with a shoulder injury. The veteran defenseman said he is getting better day by day.
“Everything has been postponed by six or seven weeks for all the surgeries I had and the rehab I had to go through,” Chara said. “I’m still recovering. I’m still working on being full strength. It’s still going on, the process of getting stronger and healthier.”
Chara, who went close to four weeks without eating solid food after the playoffs has been skating with his teammates in pre-camp captains’ practices.
Two other Boston defensemen, Kevan Miller and John Moore continue to be on the mend.
Miller, who suffered a fractured patella only to see it fracture again during rehab which prevented him from suiting up for the postseason, is hoping to be cleared by Boston’s medical staff before or during camp.
Moore will not be on the ice when camp opens. He is in the process of recovering from the fractured humours bone in his upper arm which occurred in the postseason.
A fourth rearguard who has been dealing with injury issues since the end of the playoffs is Matt Grzelcyk. The defenseman has been feeling the effects of the concussion he sustained versus the Blues. He began skating very recently and is expected to participate in training camp with the hope that the post-concussion symptoms will not return.
Injuries have not only affected the blue line corps, up front Joakim Nordstrom spent extended time in a walking boot during the offseason with a fracture in his foot, thought to be suffered in Game 7 vs St. Louis. At this time, he is out of the boot and waiting for clearance from the medical staff.
Patrice Bergeron has been on the ice for the preseason skating sessions but is still nursing the groin injury that he endured during the playoffs.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to be limited,” said Bergeron. “I feel a little better. It’s still lingering a little bit. It’s been there most of the summer. I got a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) shot in July. I’m slowly ramping it up on the ice and we’re trying to shoot more for (an) October (return).”
Bergeron went on to explain that after he received the injection, he needed to take two weeks off from training, however, he is happy with where he is, physically, at this point.
Whither Carlo and McAvoy
With the state of the team’s defensemen heading into training camp, getting restricted free agent blue liners Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy signed to new contracts is imperative if Boston is to open the season on a strong note as it intends.
Both players are coming off entry level contracts and have developed into key members of the Bruins.
Carlo, who finished second to Bergeron with a plus-22 in 2018-19, is in the process of developing into a top shut-down defender and key penalty killer. He saw his minutes increase as the season progressed and, once signed, will be relied upon heavily in that role in this season.
McAvoy wasted no time in becoming one of the League’s best defensemen since donning the black and gold straight out of Boston University in 2017. Last season, the 21-year-old led Boston with 22:10 Time On Ice while seeing action during even strength, power play, and penalty killing situations. In 117 career NHL games, McAvoy has accumulated 60 points on 14 goals and 46 assists. He has also compiled a plus-34.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has been in contact with the agents for both players.
“Still works in progress,” Sweeney said of the contract negotiations. “We continue to communicate every day and hopeful that we can find the right landing spot for both players. Obviously, they are important to our hockey club and we’re going to keep working at it.”
Cassidy signs extension
Cassidy, who had one year remaining on his contract, was looking at entering this season as a lame-duck coach.
Sweeney, team president Cam Neely, and the Jacobs family decided that Cassidy deserved to be behind the bench for longer than just one more year and saw to it that their coach would begin the new year with a multi-year extension.
Terms of the agreement were not announced but it was agreed that the signing of Cassidy was the right move for the team.
“I think it’s a good marriage, I think it’s worked well for both sides, so for me, it’s where I wanted to be.” Cassidy said at the press conference announcing his contract extension.
Sweeney extolled the qualities that Cassidy brings to the Bruins.
“I want to congratulate Bruce and be grateful for the support from the organization to be able to pursue what we believe is the right decision for our hockey club.” Sweeney said. “He’s earned the right to lead this club and this doesn’t start from two years ago, it starts from a number of years ago, where I got to know Bruce really well, working with him (at AHL Providence).
Neely likes the style of play Cassidy has installed since taking the helm in 2017.
“Well, obviously, the record speaks for itself, but just the up-tempo, focus on trying to score goals,” Neely explained. “I think everybody enjoys that style of play but also understanding that you’ve got to play well to finish in the league, you’ve got to play well in your own end, you’ve still got to check. So those are the things I noticed right away and I thought our guys really gravitated and adapted to it and enjoyed that. Even in practices, I thought our practices were certainly an indication for how we were going to play.”
With a new contract in his back pocket, Cassidy - who underwent knee replacement surgery during the offseason - can turn his attention to taking a Bruins team that will soon begin to transition from one that won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and returned to the 2013 and 2019 Stanley Cup Finals into a younger club with new leaders while seeing that the organization remains a Stanley Cup contender.
It appears to be a tall order, but Bruins management is confident Cassidy is the right man for the job and with his experiences in Boston, no one can argue with that.