By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
In Butch we trust, right Bruins fans?
The man with the Midas touch is undefeated in his first three games as the bench boss of the black and gold, and suddenly everything is sunny in the Hub of hockey. If only general manager Don Sweeney pulled the plug on Claude Julien in January when seemingly every B’s fan in Boston wanted him gone, the Bruins would be battling the Canadiens for first place, right?
I'm told if Claude Julien coached 57 games this season, his contract stated he get automatic 1 yr extension. He coached 55. Interesting.
— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) February 13, 2017
Now that the meanie who just cared about playing defense is on involuntary hiatus – the Bruins have scored 14 goals in their three victories under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, an average of 4.25 a game – players who were once afraid of making mistakes, are free to feed their creative side. Isn’t that the ticket, David Backes?
“It’s a level of intensity that has gone up,” said the center turned wing. “A level of commitment that’s gone up, a level of excitement that’s gone up, and a level of belief. It seems like a different team when we’re out there, even when we get scored on.”
Goaltender Tuukka Rask seems to agree. “I think we’ve found that groove now. We’re kind of making plays for the most part, at least in the offensive zone. We’re kind of moving as a unit up the ice and down the ice. So, that’s great to see,” said the sometimes-fabulous Finn.
“We’re skating hard and that’s something we need to continue to do. Butchy addressed that. We were going to practice with pace, and we were going to keep the pace going so we could translate to games, and it paid off the last three games.”
Ding, dong, the witch is dead! Frappes and fribbles for everyone. Overnight, this roster that is wrought with natural centers, light on scorers, and defensively challenged, has seen the light now that Butch Cassidy is in the saddle, agreed?
Please, give me a break. This is practically the same roster that spit the bit two years straight down the stretch, and was doing so again until they got their coach canned last week. It took the axe to light a fire under their ass, and for “Butchy” to play the good cop to Julien’s diligent detective.
What Bruins fans should fear most is that the sudden resurgence of a mediocre team, at best, emboldens Sweeney into being a buyer at the trade deadline, instead of a seller. He foolishly held on to Loui Eriksson last season – who at the very least would have garnered a second-round draft pick – while blowing four more picks in the process, by acquiring Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles for a team that would have been lucky to win one game if they qualified for hockey’s second season.
If Sweeney and team president Cam Neely are going to make a deal, it should be in the summer; where true hockey trades are made, not panic driven deadline debacles. It would be easy to argue that some of the veteran deadweight – hello, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci – should be sold off if there are buyers willing to deal prospects or draft picks for a player who could increase their chances in the playoffs this season.
The sooner that the Bruins management, ownership, and fan base realizes that this is a total rebuild and not a change on the fly tune up, the better it will be for everyone involved. There is no such thing as a quick fix in the National Hockey League, just ask the Detroit Red Wings. It is better to go through short-term pain, than to be stuck in the middle as the Bruins are now due to their own mismanagement.
Of course, all hockey fans in New England are much happier with what they have seen over the last three games; nevertheless, the problems that existed before the firing of Julien are still there. They lack a true identity; they lack a true leader, and they lack the talent it takes to compete for a championship. And to this point, the B’s brass hasn’t proven they know what they want to be.
Sure, things have looked a bit better over the last three games, but – as you would expect with this Bruins bunch – just when they looked like they are finding their legs, the league mandates that the players go away for a week due to this screwed-up schedule the NHL has imposed due to the disappointing World Cup of Hockey tournament in September.
A slight course correction – the type that has taken place since Cassidy took over as interim head coach – might feel good in the short term, but it could prove disastrous if it causes the team to waste yet more assets just to make a playoff push that will undoubtedly end in ruin. The Bruins need to take their medicine now – even if it results in a third-straight season of missing the playoffs – to have a chance to become a contender in two or three years.
The position the team is in at present has more to do with the players and management, than it does with who is behind the bench barking orders. Both have proven to be unequal to the challenge of producing a winning hockey team at the NHL level for several years now.
And remember, for all the short-term glory they enjoyed, things didn’t actually end well for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.