ST. LOUIS — It’s not easy out there in the current NHL coaching climate.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy noted during the All-Star Game media day on Thursday that several of the recent coaches relieved of their duties during this season had brought a team to the Stanley Cup Finals in the past.
“You see a guy like Gerard (Gallant), Peter (Laviolette), you’re like, ‘gee those guys have success,’ Peter Laviolette, Gerard, all guys who had teams go to the Stanley Cup, so you start thinking, well we lost in the Stanley Cup Final last year.”
There’s no reason to believe Cassidy isn’t safe, even in today’s climate; the Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division and Cassidy signed a long-term extension in the fall. But as he gets ready to coach his first All-Star Game, the unpleasant topic is still not easy to evade.
“It’s part of the business we signed up for,” he said. “Before it’s if you’re not going well and now it’s a little more unpredictable. Sometimes a team is going well but there’s something behind the scenes, maybe not meeting expectations, so you never really feel safe. But if you let it bother you I don’t think you’re better off for it.”
Cassidy will get to coach the Atlantic captain, David Pastrnak, which will help bring some familiarity as he coaches players who are typically rivals.
It’s also a chance to get a bit more creative, though, and have some fun with the league’s marquee event.
“I called a previous coach the other day, he had been to a few of them,” said Cassidy. “He said, not really (any strategy). He said talk to your guys and find out who wants to play with who. It just so happens our captain is Pasta so we’ll have a good sit-down and get the feel of the room and find out who wants to play with who. I think sometimes you take players away from teammates, let them play with other people, but if (Brady) Tkachuk and (Anthony) Duclair want to play together, then we’ll talk about it.”
The low pressure is a change of pace from the last time Cassidy coached an event in St. Louis. This time, a win or loss won’t send him home feeling too many emotions.
This time it’s a fun showcase with the best players in the world.
Women’s 3-on-3 could steal the show
Elite women’s hockey players will partake in NHL All-Star festivities for the second season in a row, but this time, they have their own stage with the 3-on-3 competition during the skills contest on Friday night.
“We’ve all been joking because we’re all hanging out together right now and we’re all friends off the ice, and as soon as it gets on the ice, it really comes down to pride for our country,” said Team USA’s Annie Pankowski. “I know that it’s going to be a great game and it’s going to be some amazing talent. We’ve never had an opportunity to play 3-on-3, and I think it’s just going to be so much fun.”
The rivalry matters, but for one night, that’s put aside with all focus on the growth of the game and exposure for all involved.
“I think for us it’s big visibility, a big platform to be here at the NHL All-Star Weekend. It’s going to be exciting I think for us,” said Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin. “I know we talk about the Canada-U.S. rivalry, but tomorrow it’s all about women’s hockey. We want to grow it together. We want to grow all of this together. And seeing this again today, seeing little girls wanting to play hockey, wanting to start altogether, I think that’s where we all started where we had no idea how to put our shin pads on, where to put our shoulder pads, but that’s part of it. That’s part of the journey. It’s going to be real exciting.”