Bruce Cassidy has always been a video guy. He came up in the ECHL, using a VHS player and a bulky monitor to watch for other teams’ weaknesses and his own club’s strengths. He was a one-man coaching staff back then, 25 years and hundreds of bus rides ago.
These days, much of the clip-curation duty falls to two video coordinators, four assistant coaches, and a four-person analytics team. But Cassidy recently spent time pulling together footage that best shows the Bruins’ style of play in the offensive, defensive, and neutral zones. When newcomers arrive for training camp next month — or earlier — Cassidy and his assistants will sit down with them and go over the standards.
No doubt, clips of David Krejci will be shown.
Though Patrice Bergeron is rightfully seen as the gold standard for playing the Bruins’ way, forever anticipating and executing to his coaches’ delight, Krejci always knew where to be. The consistency his longtime No. 2 center displayed is one reason it’s so hard for Cassidy to project how Charlie Coyle will do as a replacement.
“Bergy will still give us high-end minutes,” Cassidy said. “We know that. David is the one, he played a big role for us, sometimes quietly. Now all of a sudden when he’s not here, we’ll probably realize how good a player he was. I think we all knew it. Now we’re going to live it firsthand without that 1-2 punch.”
A Taylor Hall-Coyle-Craig Smith line could be productive, in theory. Coyle clicked with Smith in training camp. Cassidy felt those two and the departed Nick Ritchie (Toronto) were one of his strongest lines entering the season. Hall instantly meshed with Krejci upon arrival, but if recovered from offseason knee surgery, Coyle could rediscover his game as a physical, puck-possessing, righthanded distributor. Hall would bring the speed and stickhandling and zone entries. Smith would do the dirty work and have a finger on the “shoot” button.
“He’ll be excited for that opportunity,” Cassidy said of Coyle. “I mean, why wouldn’t you be? You get some extra minutes, you’re moving up in the lineup, a little more ask of the offensive side of things.”
That’s the theme of this offseason, opportunity. For Coyle, for Erik Haula, who could center a resurgent Jake DeBrusk and hard-to-play-against Nick Foligno on the No. 3 line. For Trent Frederic, who will challenge Curtis Lazar and Tomas Nosek for the No. 4 center role.
In Cassidy’s opinion, the wild card in the forward unit is Jack Studnicka, who played 31 games last season between Boston (1-2—3 in 20 games) and Providence. He has added some 10 pounds and could play at 6 feet 1 inch and 185 pounds. As a right shot, is he a second-line candidate? Can he hold down a No. 3 center spot, or play the wing?
“Last year he didn’t play a lot of hockey,” Cassidy said, “but it has allowed him to get stronger in the gym.”
So it has gone for all NHL hopefuls over the last year and a half, with ice time limited during a critical growth period. Cassidy liked the size of the prospects at the team’s development camp in Brighton this past week, including 2018 fourth-rounder Curtis Hall (6-4, 216 pounds), who has grown a couple inches and put on 15 pounds since he was drafted. Whether Hall, or 6-3, 209-pound Johnny Beecher (30th overall, 2019) ever slide into the middle of the Boston lineup will be determined by the finish they add to their framework.
Meanwhile, the Bruins will monitor how Krejci fares with HC Olomouc, his hometown Czech club.
Cassidy, while reasoning that the team might be “humming along” in a post-Krejci season and wouldn’t want to mess with the lineup, acknowledged recently that a Krejci return in late April or early May is a “definite possibility” if they haven’t found the right mix.
“I think it could happen,” Cassidy said. “I’m not going to speculate because I don’t know what he wants to do. But I think we all know he’s got some good hockey left in him, so it might be something he chooses to do.”
Will he watch any video of Krejci playing in the Czech Extraliga?
“If there’s chatter that he’s thinking of coming back, obviously we’d watch it,” Cassidy said. “We have a lot of our own stuff to do, watch a lot of our own prospects. If there’s a highlight package someone puts together I’d watch it, for sure.”
UP IN THE AIR
Will Krejci’s No. 46 ever be retired?
If this is it for David Krejci, does No. 46 go to the TD Garden rafters?
I say yes, eventually, but on the Rick Middleton timeline.
Krejci is seventh in assists and games in Bruins history, and eighth in points. Since 2011, only Nikita Kucherov (127), Sidney Crosby (109), and Brad Marchand (107) have more playoff points than Playoff Krech, who put up a 35-68—103 line in 129 games. A brilliant two-way player, and one of the best playmakers of his era. Fourteen years as a Bruin.
It may take a while; Middleton was honored some 30 years after he retired, after watching luminaries such as Kaspars Daugavins wear his No. 16.
Chatting about retired numbers with Bruins radio announcer Bob Beers late last season, he had Nos. 33 (Zdeno Chara), 37 (Patrice Bergeron), 40 (Tuukka Rask), and 63 (Marchand) as no-doubters. He wasn’t sure about Krejci. He noted that productive fan favorites Wayne Cashman (12) and Ken Hodge (8, retired for Cam Neely) aren’t there (nor, I would note, are Gerry Cheevers and Tim Thomas, who shared 30).
“Krejci spent his whole career here. Hodge didn’t. Cash did,” Beers noted. “I don’t know if Krech gets up there. I think Rask is in. Rask, Bergy, Marchy — as long as he keeps going, no question. And Z, as soon as he retires.”
By the way, Chara, training in Slovakia, hasn’t decided whether to play another season.
Kane puts Sharks in a tough spot
A few months back, one agent who has clients on the Sharks said of Evander Kane’s off-putting personality: “That guy walks into a room and the flowers wilt.”
The Athletic reported this past week that several of Kane’s San Jose teammates don’t want to play with him despite his production (team-high 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games last season). This comes on the heels of allegations from Kane’s estranged wife that he bet on games he played in.
When filing for bankruptcy in January, Kane, 30, claimed gambling losses of $1.5 million over the previous year. The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA prohibits gambling on any NHL game. A reminder is posted in every dressing room.
But count me as skeptical that Kane, who has made no secret of his love for gambling, was throwing Sharks games. He certainly wasn’t betting on them to lose, given the season he submitted. It’s difficult to see how one left wing could so greatly affect the performance of 17 other skaters and a goalie.
The Sharks are in a tough spot. Kane will make $7 million each of the next four years, with a three-team trade list. They have $26.5 million in cap space tied up in Brent Burns (unrestricted free agent in 2025), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (2026), and Erik Karlsson (2027). A prudent move would be to deal UFA-to-be Tomas Hertl, rather than give the 27-year-old a raise on his expiring $5.625 million deal.
Trading for Karlsson in September 2018 was supposed to get the Sharks over the hump, but it looks like the furthest this core will get was the Cup Final in 2016. A tough situation for a group that’s experienced a lot of close — eight 100-point seasons, four conference finals — since Joe Thornton arrived in November 2005. Without Thornton last season, they finished 26th in the NHL, their worst showing since finishing second-to-last in 1997. That finish landed them Patrick Marleau at No. 2 overall that summer, one spot after the dead-last Bruins picked Thornton.
This year’s first-rounder, Swedish winger William Eklund (No. 7 overall), is a few years away. The Sharks’ return to relevance will be even further off. To not have a teammate pulling on the rope has to make it tougher. Kane strongly denied his soon-to-be-ex’s accusations, saying he was going against advice of his legal counsel to do so. But if general manager Doug Wilson has to move Kane, he likely isn’t getting a haul in return. More pain is ahead.
Salary cap could rise in 2022
The Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported the NHL is projecting a $1 million bump in the salary camp, to $82.5 million, in advance of the 2022-23 season.
Come October, the league will begin a third straight season with the cap’s upper limit frozen at $81.5 million. Seravalli reported the NHL projects $4.8 billion in revenue for this upcoming year, a figure boosted by new TV deals with Disney (ESPN) and Warner Media (Turner Sports), plus expansion fees from the Seattle Kraken.
That the revenue remains shy of pre-pandemic revenue figures ($4.9 billion in 2019-20) with all that extra juice, Seravalli noted, suggests the league believes its buildings won’t be full for at least some of the year.
The extra salary-cap room should help the Bruins, who will need to pay arbitration-eligible restricted free agent Charlie McAvoy next summer, and unrestricted free agent David Pastrnak before July 2023.
Laine in need of reboot
Patrik Laine was supposed to be the highest-scoring Finnish NHLer since Teemu Selanne. With 44 goals as a 19-year-old in 2017-18, Laine looked to be well on his way.
The right wing scored 138 goals in his first four seasons. Then came the drop-off in Winnipeg, the trade to Columbus, and 12 goals in 46 games last season. After shouldering the blame for his troubles in an exit interview in May, Laine changed his tune during an interview with Aamulehti, his hometown newspaper. He claimed ex-Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella short-changed his production by making him play two-way hockey.
“You have to cheat a little bit,” if you want to become a Rocket Richard winner, Laine reasoned, per a translation. “I think it’s stupid not to use my potential.”
After accepting his qualifying offer from the Blue Jackets — one year, $7.5 million — Laine is looking for a rebound under new coach Brad Larsen. However, that relationship may have started on the wrong foot. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the reason Laine was benched on Feb. 8, three games into his time with the Jackets, was because he uttered a “disrespectful comment” toward then-assistant coach Larsen. The newspaper reported that the sides have moved on.
Say this for Laine: He has kept some good company this summer. He was spotted golfing with Selanne in Finland this past week, around the time Team Suomi hosted an orientation camp with some 40 players in advance of Beijing 2022 and the World Championship, held in Tampere and Helsinki next May. Bruins prospect Urho Vaakanainen was one of the invited candidates.
MacKinnon allows no room for error
New Flames defenseman Nikita Zadorov believes his ex-Colorado teammate, Nathan MacKinnon, is a Michael Jordan-level competitor — right down to the uber-strict dressing room rules and occasional berating of teammates.
Among the items to unpack from Zadorov’s sit-down with Russian YouTuber Cherkas Atlant, as translated by a Calgary fan site:
▪ According to Zadorov, MacKinnon pays a dietician $50,000 a year, has a live-in physiotherapist during the season (at $1,000 per day), and pays his personal chef $100,000 a year.
▪ MacKinnon drinks only water, got rid of all sweets from the Colorado dressing room, and had the team replace the pasta in the meal room with protein-rich chickpea pasta. There is no carbonara sauce on the pasta — in MacKinnon’s view, that’s offseason food, not Stanley Cup fuel.
▪ A missed pass in practice — even by a few inches — might earn a screaming rebuke and/or a slapped puck back in the passer’s direction.
▪ MacKinnon, like Zadorov, likes to play video games before coming to the rink on game days. But MacKinnon likes to lose at Fortnite, because he comes to the game angry. Many players are like that, Zadorov said. But MacKinnon is different.
“He’s crazy that way at the moment he just sees red, and can’t control himself, then he comes back to earth,” Zadorov said. “It’s all because of the competitor he is. Personally, it energizes me being around him.”
Zadorov, acquired from the Blackhawks for a third-round pick, was one of 17 players to file for salary arbitration. Others include Nashville starting netminder Juuse Saros, Pittsburgh defensive stalwart Zach Aston-Reese, and new Seattle acquisition Vince Dunn. Sportsnet reported that, for the first time in recent memory, two clubs requested arbitration: Minnesota with Kevin Fiala, and Philadelphia (Travis Sanheim).
Though many players approved of the idea, the NHL didn’t roll out a baseball-style schedule that was popular during the pandemic last season. The Bruins have one home-road back-to-back, against the Rangers in late April. “I’m surprised they didn’t want to go down that road,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “There seemed to be good feedback on it.” … Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois, once traded for Laine, changed his Winnipeg jersey number (from No. 13 to No. 80) to honor his former teammate, Columbus goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, who died in a fireworks accident on July 4 … One of the strangest parts of the NHL’s dealings with the Olympics: the latter won’t allow highlights from hockey competition to be shown to non-rightsholders, even if the organization is loaning its most prized assets — a tradition that boosted Olympic hockey to new heights from 1998 through 2018. For example, Sidney Crosby’s “golden goal” in 2010 and T. J. Oshie’s shootout exploits against Russia in 2014 are nowhere to be found in NHL video highlights on air or online. I don’t get it … The defending NWHL champion Boston Pride restocked their roster with Lynn product Katie Burt, a netminder for the PWHPA, and ex-Connecticut Whale forward Kayla Friesen, among several signings. The addition of Burt, a national team-caliber goalie, will boost a Pride club that could lose All-Star Swedish starter Lovisa Selander during the lead-up to Beijing. Boston’s weekends-only 20-game schedule begins Nov. 6 at Warrior Ice Arena … Fans of “Ted Lasso,” the Apple TV series starring Jason Sudeikis, had to be thinking about Roy Kent when they learned that the bellicose Tortorella was heading to ESPN as an analyst. Asking Torts for his thoughts on Columbus’s performance and hearing, “They played like [bleep]!” would be an in-character answer for both men.