Why Bruce Cassidy thinks this year's Stanley Cup won't be cheapened at all

Scott McLaughlin
April 30, 2020 - 5:32 pm
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There's no question that if we get an NHL postseason this year, it's going to be very weird. The season has already been interrupted for nearly two months, and it may very well be at least another two months before it resumes. The playoffs will likely run into late summer or maybe even the fall. They will likely be played without fans in attendance. Multiple series could be played entirely in one arena, with whole divisions sequestered in one location.

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There will inevitably be people who will view whichever team wins the Cup under this scenario as something lesser than a usual Cup champion. They'll say that winning a Cup under these conditions isn't the same as winning it in packed buildings while having to travel and play on the road and do so without a break like this to get healthy between the regular season and postseason.

Bruce Cassidy isn't one of those people. Appearing on Dale and Keefe Thursday, the Bruins coach said he actually thinks it might be even tougher mentally to win the Cup this year than in other years, and that therefore this year's champion might deserve even more credit.

"Well down the road it won’t matter, right? Whoever is the 2020 champs, they’ll talk about it a bit, but you’ll have your name on the Cup," Cassidy said. "The legacy part will always be there. In the short term here, there will be some doubters and people who say, ‘Well it wasn’t legit.’ I don’t know, I think it’s even tougher mentally to have to take a break like this, then pick up your game again and get almost right into it. There might be a few regular-season games, I’m not sure what the format will be, but basically right back at it.

"The team that’s even tougher mentally, that’s what it’s going to take to win, to refocus yourself after a layoff like this, and do it in a different environment. You could make the argument that team should be credited even more for doing that. I guess when it’s all said and done we’ll have that conversation, what it was like to go through it, and then it’ll be up to people to judge. But I know that if we’re the champions, that ring’s going to be beautiful to look at every day. But that’ll be up to the sports historians to sort of talk about that and see where they rank it."

There will be a lot that's different and weird about playing in an empty arena, but Cassidy highlighted something he's been thinking about from a coach's perspective: trying to talk to his team in-game without the opponent hearing.

"As a coach, one of the interesting things is that when the building’s full, there’s timeouts and there’s music playing and there’s just a lot of noise and announcements over the PA, and you really have to block a lot of that out if you’re trying to get a message across in timeouts," Cassidy said. "All of a sudden now, play stops and you can hear a pin drop in a rink. I think it’s going to be different for everybody. You can probably hear the other side’s conversation if they’re talking to their players, if the benches are close enough. It’s going to be weird. It really will be with no fans in there. So we’ll see. Guys adjust. Players just want to play at the end of the day. Once the puck drops, they’ll focus, but it will be a different atmosphere and it’ll take some getting used to."

Cassidy did say that one thing he'd like to see remain as close to normal as possible is the playoff structure. He said his preference would be to stick with 16 teams making the playoffs and every round being best-of-seven. Some recent reports have indicated that if regular-season games aren't played to solidify playoff seeding, as many as 24 teams could make the playoffs, with best-of-three play-in series to start.

Related: Dale Arnold reveals his Bruins All-Decade Team

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