The next coach of the Bruins does not have to bring hundreds of NHL wins or a Stanley Cup ring to town. They do not even need to have “NHL head coach” as a line on their résumé.
“I’m going to cast the net a little wider,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said on Tuesday, one day after firing Bruce Cassidy after six seasons. “I don’t think it’s an absolute prerequisite.
“We’ve got an experienced group of guys that want to win, know how to win, and a young group of guys as the next core — Charlie [McAvoy] and David [Pastrnak] being part of that — that hopefully can bridge and continue to bridge what that next young group is going to come in.
“Now a coach needs to direct that ship and be able to communicate effectively across all those age groups. That’s certainly why I want to make sure I cast the net wide enough. I don’t believe it’s an absolute prerequisite to have coached behind an NHL bench.”
Based on what Sweeney and team president Cam Neely have said, management believed Cassidy’s messaging, more so than his offense, went stale.
So they are looking for fresh eyes, ideas, and approaches. They want a coach whose promise will help convince Pastrnak, whose contract expires after next season, to commit to a long-term deal. They want someone who can take Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei, the Bruins’ top two prospects, and make them NHL players. They want someone who can put Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic, Oskar Steen, and Jakub Zboril on track for sustained success.
A few of the names that could be on Sweeney’s list:
Kraken assistant could be the top candidate, based on his experience in the organization … Spent five seasons with Providence, including four as head coach, from 2016-21 before joining Dave Hakstol’s staff in Seattle … Helped develop future NHLers Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly, Jake DeBrusk, Noel Acciari, Karson Kuhlman, Matt Grzelcyk, Anders Bjork, Frederic, Frank Vatrano, Connor Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon, and Dan Vladar during his time here … Management continually praised him for call-ups making seamless transitions … Former Providence College captain and Bruins farmhand who played in two games with the varsity (2005-06) … Age 42.
Took over for Leach as Providence coach this season … Spent previous three years as his assistant … Some of his charges who saw NHL action this season included Jack Ahcan, Jesper Froden, Marc McLaughlin, Studnicka, and Steen ... Age 46 … Former minor league right wing won the ECHL’s Kelly Cup with Atlantic City in 2003.
Providence College’s coach since 2012, he has built a program that won the 2015 NCAA title and earned him 2016 Hockey East Coach of the Year ... Is 225-136-51 in 11 seasons with the Friars ... Age 49 … Last month, signed a multiyear extension to remain with PC ... Was at Union before that, where he won the NCAA Coach of the Year award in 2011 ... Started his career as a Harvard assistant ... Has coached the last two US World Junior teams.
Oversaw arguably the NHL’s best power play this season as a Maple Leafs assistant under Sheldon Keefe … Spent previous three seasons as coach of AHL Hershey … Was Providence assistant under Leach in 2017-18 … Age 40 … Former ECHL left wing.
Helped steer the expansion Predators into Western Conference contention. Took the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup (2018). Fired after four seasons with the Islanders, including a 2021 second-round win over the Bruins …. Age 59 … Ranks third all time in wins (914) … Dauphin, Manitoba, native rumored to be taking over the Jets.
Former Jets, Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, and Whalers coach ranks seventh in wins (775) … Tendered his resignation in Winnipeg in December … Was with Jets for nine seasons, before messaging got stale … Age 55 … Known as a blunt and honest coach, not unlike Cassidy.
Like Concord native John Tortorella (ESPN), TNT analyst kept himself in the spotlight and current with the league after latest dismissal … Most recently spent four years leading rebuilding Arizona (2017-21) … Age 58 … Was Tampa Bay’s coach for a short stint (2009-10), before the Lightning found success with Guy Boucher … Has four Stanley Cup rings: two as a Penguins player, two as a Penguins assistant (2016-17) … Before brief stint with the Bruins (1996-97), was Neely’s rival as a power forward … Four-time All-Star owns NHL record for Gordie Howe hat tricks (18).
Took over for Jack Parker at Boston University before spending 2018-21 with the young-and-rebuilding Rangers … In five years at BU (2013-18), Cranston, R.I., native coached Grzelcyk for three years and McAvoy for two … Age 55 … Went 96-87-25 on Broadway, but it’s hard to say the Eastern Conference finalist Rangers don’t have his fingerprints on them … Coached Team USA to fourth-place finish at the World Championships (Jeremy Swayman was one of his goalies) and a quarterfinal loss at the Beijing Olympics (McLaughlin was on the latter team).
Former University of Denver coach earned an NHL spot with Dallas in 2018-19, and took the Stars to the second round of the playoffs … Was 18-11-3 to start the following season before Stars fired him under murky circumstances, later revealed to be 52-year-old’s struggles with alcoholism … Went to rehab and resurrected his career as a Blues assistant the last two seasons … Oversaw the Blues’ penalty kill, which ranked fifth in the league this season.
Matt Porter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.