BOSTON -- Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was quick to remove head coach Bruce Cassidy's interim tag, making the move days after the team lost its first-round playoff series.
"I think the way the team responded to his message, we had an aggressive bent to our game, we scored more goals, we didn't lose defensive structure in our foundation," Sweeney said Thursday, a day after announcing the move. "Our penalty killing remained to be tops in the league; our power play got better as the season went along. To me it spoke to the change that our team responded to ... and I felt very comfortable in moving forward that Bruce should do a great job."
The Bruins went 18-8-1 after Cassidy replaced Claude Julien on Feb. 7. Boston reached the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and every game in the series was decided by one goal, including four overtime games.
The Bruins averaged 3.37 goals and allowed 2.30 goals under Cassidy; they scored 2.56 per game and allowed 2.67 under Julien.
After eight seasons, five as head coach, with Boston's American Hockey League farm team in Providence, Cassidy was promoted to be an assistant for Julien last summer. The Bruins went 26-23-6 under Julien, who was in his 10th season and had won the Stanley Cup with several of Boston's key veteran players in 2011.
Cassidy credited that core of players for helping him turn the Bruins' season around.
"The veteran leadership, they gave me an opportunity to go in and earn their respect and they bought into what we were selling ... 100 percent," said Cassidy, whose previous NHL head-coaching experience came with the Washington Capitals in 2002-04. "We've got some Stanley Cup champions in that room and it showed with some high-character players and I was thankful for that. And from that we're trying to build something together now. That's the process going forward."
With his coach in place, Sweeney's next task is to address his roster. Among the Bruins' top players, only forward David Pastrnak, who is a restricted free agent after a 34-goal, 70-point season, needs a new contract; he is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. The rest of the Bruins' core players are signed. Boston has several young players who either reached the NHL or are on the cusp of pushing for a job. But Sweeney will also look outside the organization for help if it's determined the Bruins need it.
"We're going to look at everything. ... I don't think just putting a young player in the lineup for sake of just describing the fact you want to play young players is the right thing to do," Sweeney said. "They have to be good players ... they have to push another player out of a job. ... You get to be a team that's deep enough, you have internal competition and those players, they just push other players out of the way because they're ready."