Bruins

Harry Sinden talks comparison between 1970 and 2020 Bruins, Cam Neely’s switch to front office & more

(Frank Lennon/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

With the Bruins celebrating the 50th anniversary of their 1970 Stanley Cup champion club this week, Harry Sinden — coach of that 1970 team and later longtime executive within the organization — spoke with the media via conference call on Monday afternoon. 

While most of the conversation centered around the likes of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk and the rest of those “Big Bad Bruins”, Sinden also offered some interesting insight on the current state of the Bruins — whether it be the potential of the 2019-20 roster, the impact of Bruce Cassidy’s arrival as head coach and Cam Neely’s transition into a front-office role. 

Here are a few highlights from the call:

Sinden finds plenty of similarities between 1970 and 2020.

They may not carry the “Big Bad” moniker that Sinden’s crew boasted whenever they took to the ice, but the former B’s bench boss isn’t one to discount what this current roster can bring in terms of throwing their weight around when needed. 

As the game has continued to evolve and favor skill and speed over size and bone-crunching hits, the Bruins have shifted their style of play — especially under Cassidy’s watch — to put themselves in the best position to succeed in this current climate. 

However, even with offensive spark plugs like David Pastrnak in the top six and faster, puck-moving options like Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk in the D corps, Sinden believes that Boston hasn't lost the hard-nosed identity that the franchise patented five decades ago.

Sure, the 2019-20 Bruins may not be getting into line brawls on a regular basis, but a commitment to tenacious defense and a physical forecheck continues to be a recipe for success in Boston — whether it be in 1970 or 2020.

"Very, very comparable — and every bit as good," Sinden said of comparing his team to the current roster. "There's a couple of things that ... in my mind, determine good teams. And it's the way one team checks and the way the other team checks. This Bruins team is one of the best checking teams we've had all the way along. It really is. In the league right now, there's teams like maybe a Las Vegas that check the way we do. Perhaps Columbus and a couple others. But we have that checking ability that allows us to make sure our third and fourth lines are very important members of our team."

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While players like Zdeno Chara, Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, Connor Clifton are more than willing to knock the opposition around with every shift, Sinden gave credit to the system that Cassidy and his staff maintain — in which adhering to an aggressive, physical forecheck is stressed just as much as other, more flashy, areas of the game.

"(Their) coaches have been able to convince our team that of all the skills — shooting, scoring, stickhandling, skating — checking is every bit as important," Sinden said. "(Cassidy) been able to convince them of that. So we end up, with my observations anyway, the third and last fourth lines being very, very important, because they complete the skill cycles.

"And that's what a lot of our teams used to do. We used to score a lot of goals back in years we're talking about, but we always had one of the best goals-against-average,  too. It's important, and in today's game it’s particularly important. That's why I do like this team. I liked it last year an awful lot. I liked it the year before. And the reason I like it is because the load that the team carries in the checking game is carried by the third and fourth lines just as well as it is by the first and second lines."

Sinden with high praise for Cassidy

While Cassidy and the Bruins came up just short of a Stanley Cup title last June, there isn't a whole lot that the B's bench boss hasn't accomplished in 3 1/2 seasons since taking the helm from Claude Julien in 2017. Promoted to head coach back in February 2017 with Boston floundering in the standings, Cassidy helped lead the B's back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 — with the former Providence coach making an instant impact thanks to his communication skills and an emphasis on a more aggressive system.

In total, Cassidy has coached the Bruins to an impressive 161-66-34 record over 261 games behind the bench — good enough for a .682 points percentage.

"What he was doing in Providence was never unnoticed by Don (Sweeney) and Cam and certainly not by me," Sinden said. "I thought that we had a gem here. His relationship with players,