The Bruins opened the week trying to narrow a list of seven coaching candidates, including two names not previously known.
Penguins assistant Mike Vellucci and Greg Cronin, coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles, are among that group of finalists, a source with knowledge of the process told the Globe.
Add them to the list of five previously reported here: David Quinn, Jim Montgomery, Jay Leach, Joe Sacco, and Spencer Carbery. The Bruins would no doubt prefer to have their coach in place before the NHL Draft (July 7-8 in Montreal) and the start of free agency (July 13).
Don Sweeney, who signed a multiyear extension to remain general manager, has said NHL head coaching experience wouldn’t necessarily factor into his decision. Of the above named, Quinn (Rangers), Montgomery (Stars), and Sacco (Avalanche) have directed NHL benches. The others have risen as high as assistant coach.
Vellucci, 55, has spent the last two years as an assistant under Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh, where he worked primarily with the team’s forwards and penalty kill. He joined the organization in 2019 as general manager and head coach of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. The Michigander was in the Carolina organization before that, spending 2014-19 as assistant general manager and director of hockey operations, and the last two years of that stint as head coach of the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.
He won a Calder Cup with the Checkers in 2019 and was AHL coach of the year. In his two seasons with the Checkers, he was 97-43-8-4.
Vellucci, a defenseman drafted in the seventh round (131st overall) by the Whalers in 1984, played two NHL games with Hartford (1987-88). He was formerly GM and coach of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, where he won a championship (2007) and a coach of the year award (2013). Future Bruins draft pick Tyler Seguin was among his pupils.
Vellucci got his start in coaching with the NAHL’s Compuware Ambassadors (1994-2000), where he won back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999.
Vellucci’s 19-year-old son, Ryan, is a center playing for the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL.
Cronin, from Arlington, has spent the last four years leading the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche’s top affiliate. His previous NHL stops include assistant positions with the Islanders (1998-2003; 2014-18) and Maple Leafs (2011-14).
Cronin was head coach at Northeastern (2005-11), going 87-104-29 and making one NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009. The Huskies won three of their 34 games in his first season, but set a then-record for wins (25) in his fourth season.
He quickly earned a reputation as a fiery leader. Then-Northeastern athletic director Dave O’Brien told the Globe in 2005 of his new coach: “After one lunch, I knew he had grit and determination. If you look real closely, those aren’t even his teeth. If you look even closer, those probably aren’t his joints as well.”
Cronin was an assistant at Maine and Colorado College in the 1990s and was interim head coach at both for short stints. As a player, he was a forward at Colby.
Cronin’s father, Don, was a Northeastern captain in 1958-59. His uncle, Gerry, was captain in 1960-61. His cousin, Kerry, was a member of the 1983-86 women’s teams.
College Hockey Insider reported Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin interviewed for the Bruins job.
It’s unclear if the Bruins are speaking with Tampa Bay assistants Jeff Halpern and Derek Lalonde, both of whom are said to be interviewing with other teams now that the Stanley Cup Final has ended.
Boston is one of three teams with an open head coaching job. Detroit and Winnipeg are the others.