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Bruins owner says decision to fire Julien was ‘overdue’

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BOSTON (AP) Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs acknowledged Tuesday that he might have held up the coaching change that helped the team turn its season around and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

But in his first public comments on the team since the fall, Jacobs expressed appreciation for general manager Don Sweeney’s decision to hire Bruce Cassidy as coach and the job Cassidy did after taking over for Claude Julien on an interim basis on Feb. 7.

The Bruins were 26-23-6 when they made the switch and went 18-8-1 under Cassidy. Sweeney removed the interim tag for Cassidy and made him the full-time coach last week.

“The decision was very much made here in Boston and the leadership here,” Jacobs said during a news conference at TD Garden. “My own impression was it was overdue, we were a little late. Maybe I precipitated part of that in having misplaced loyalty in that sense. But it was the right move. …

“It was a very prudent move and it was a prudent hire. Under those circumstances I would say that Don did a terrific job in selecting him and motivating him and motivating the team.”

Read more: Neely defends David Backes contract

The Bruins lost their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Ottawa Senators, their first playoff appearance since 2014, in six games. All six games were decided by one goal, including four overtime games. The Bruins gained postseason experience and several younger players took strides in their development.

It’s been two seasons since the Bruins made the change from Peter Chiarelli to Sweeney in the GM’s chair, and Jacobs believes that the results of 2016-17 and the influx of younger talent has proven that the move was the right one.

“I think we had a successful season because of what evolved, the changing of the guard … in our coaching ranks and I think our leadership showed itself very well,” Jacobs said. “I think hope springs eternal. … I think the direction is good and I think we did a tremendous job once we had Butch in place. So I’m happy with where we are and I’m happy looking at the next generation of players coming into this organization.”

In some regards, this season resembled 2008, when the Bruins under first-year coach Julien went to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and pushed the Montreal Canadiens to seven games before succumbing. Three years later, the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.

“It remains to be seen, but I think it’s beneficial,” Bruins president Cam Neely said. “For players that hadn’t played in the playoffs before to really get an understanding of what playoff hockey’s all about is what you want for your team.

“Now we’re not satisfied with losing out in the first round and winning two games. But it was a series we felt could’ve went either way.”

If competing for the Stanley Cup, or winning it, again takes three years, Jacobs intends to be around for the run. Jacobs, who passed the role of CEO to son Charlie Jacobs in January 2015, just completed his 42nd season of ownership. He doesn’t expect to relinquish his current role in the near future.

“This is a wonderful property that my whole family has enjoyed and it should be preserved for the next generation,” the elder Jacobs said. “I’m hopeful that that’s the way it goes. It’s obviously out of my hands at some point. But I think the next couple of years is predictable for me. Beyond that I don’t know.”

Sweeney shares offseason plans for Bruins

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The Boston Bruins had a relatively successful season, getting back to the playoffs after narrowly missing them the past two years.

But another interesting summer awaits GM Don Sweeney, who has a number of areas he’d like to improve.

From CSN New England:

Sweeney listed the “middle of the [forward] lineup, transition-minded defensemen and the backup goaltender position” as places he had in mind for offseason upgrades. Those were glaring areas of need throughout the regular season and postseason. 

More specifically on Sweeney’s to-do list: a left wing to be paired with David Krejci, a revamping of a third line that underachieved far too often and another top-four defenseman capable of moving the puck to go along with a more dependable backup goaltender situation than the Jekyll and Hyde performance from Anton Khudobin last season.

Boston’s pending unrestricted free agents include Drew Stafford, Dominic Moore, and John-Michael Liles, the latter of whom turns 37 in November.

At some point, the Bruins will need to find a replacement for 40-year-old Zdeno Chara. But the NHL’s oldest defenseman still has one year left on his contract, and he says he’d like to play beyond that.

To start next season, the Bruins could go with a top four of Chara, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Charlie McAvoy, two lefties and two righties. Assuming they don’t re-sign Liles, adding another left shot for the bottom pairing seems an attainable goal for Sweeney. Adding another top-four d-man could be tough, though.

Another situation to watch is the one with Ryan Spooner, the 25-year-old forward who found his way into Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse in the playoffs. Spooner is a pending RFA and arbitration eligible. He can be good offensively, but without the puck he’s still tough to trust.

Sweeney did not share his plan for Spooner with reporters, but it’s safe to say the player’s future with the Bruins is uncertain.

U.S. adds Bruins’ McAvoy, Blackhawks’ Trevor van Riemsdyk for Worlds

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After a whirlwind of an NHL debut suiting up for the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, defenseman Charlie McAvoy is staying busy this summer.

McAvoy and Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Trevor van Riemsdyk are the latest additions to the U.S. roster for the upcoming World Championship.

This comes a day after a tough day for USA Hockey, as both Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews were ruled out from the competition.

Neither of these young defensemen can match that star power, but tournaments like these can be interesting showcases, particularly for McAvoy (who’s already shown great promise at just 19).

The Bruins threw McAvoy right into the deep end against the Senators; only Zdeno Chara‘s average time on ice of 28:46 exceeded McAvoy’s 26:12.

It’s understandable that Matthews and others may opt for rest, particularly after a season made more hectic thanks to the World Cup. In McAvoy’s case, the Worlds represent another chance for him to get his feet wet against NHL-level competition.

MORE:McAvoy shines in debut.

Bruce Cassidy officially named head coach of the Bruins

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Bruce Cassidy wanted it, and now he’s got it.

On Wednesday morning, Cassidy was officially named the 28th head coach of the Boston Bruins.

He really helped turn Boston’s season around after taking over for Claude Julien, who was fired on Feb. 9. Cassidy led the Bruins to an 18-8-1 record in 33 games behind the bench.

Despite being without a number of key players like Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, David Krejci and others, Cassidy’s Bruins managed to push the Senators before eventually being eliminated in six games in the opening round of the playoffs.

“Obviously we’re talking (the players) about pretty much everything when we’re out shooting the bull, and a lot of guys liked him,” forward David Backes said on Tuesday, per NESN. “He was put into a tough situation — being out of the playoff race, maybe just chasing at the point he takes over to try to take a team and get in … and you figure the way the business works, that he’s probably coaching for his life to make a splash and show that he can be a difference-maker or else who knows what the future holds for him? I think he did a heck of a job, and his results are what a coach should be judged on.”

Cassidy did some impressive work over the final three months of the campaign. Under his watch, the team finished first in goals-per-game (3.37), first in fewest shots allowed (741), tied for second in wins (18), tied for second in power play percentage (27.8), tied for third in goals allowed per game (2.30), and they ranked sixth in takeaways (229).

Prior to joining Julien’s staff as an assistant at the start of the 2016-17 season, Cassidy spent five years as head coach of Boston’s AHL team in Providence.

This is the second head coaching job for the 51-year-old at the NHL level. He previously served as head coach of the Washington Capitals for parts of two seasons (2002-03 to 2003-04).

Cassidy ‘absolutely’ wants to return as Bruins’ head coach

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To nobody’s surprise, Bruce Cassidy is on board with shedding his interim tag and becoming Boston’s full-time bench boss.

“Absolutely,” Cassidy said of coming back, following the Bruins’ opening-round playoff loss to Ottawa (per CBS Boston). “One hundred percent.”

One would think the 51-year-old did enough to warrant a longer look. After replacing Claude Julien in early February, Cassidy led a team on the fringes of the playoff picture to an 18-8-1 record down the stretch, and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.

Yes, the B’s fell short against the Sens, but were hamstrung by a depleted lineup missing the likes of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Top center David Krejci was also extremely limited, missing three of six games to injury.

When further asked about his future, Cassidy tapped the brakes on predicting what will happen, or what changes the team needed for next season.

“Well, now we’re making a lot of assumptions,” he said. “That will be determined going forward by management. It’s a tough question to answer.”

Cassidy’s time with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, and his history working with young players, may certainly help his cause. A few of his guys — Austin Czarnik, Frank Vatrano, Tommy Cross, Noel Acciari — forged out roles with the big club this season, while other youngsters certainly made an impact in the playoffs.

Prized d-man prospect Charlie McAvoy was a central figure on defense, and one of Cassidy’s more notable lineup moves — putting Sean Kuraly in for Games 5 and 6 — gave the club a boost of energy.

That said, the B’s do have options on the coaching front.

There are a number of experienced bench bosses available. Lindy Ruff, Darryl Sutter and Jack Capuano — a former teammate of Sweeney’s, it should be mentioned — are just a few of the higher profile free agents out there. It’s unclear if Boston is interested in going this route, however. Cassidy has been with the organization a long time, going on eight seasons, and has certainly paid his dues.