Ryan: With time not on their side, race is on for Bruce Cassidy & Co. to assemble best Bruins’ lineup

(Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

When it came to putting the best foot forward at the outset of a new NHL campaign, Bruce Cassidy and his staff often had a familiar routine.

Before the off-ice testing, the bag skates and the droning slog of exhibition play took place, Cassidy and his staff often opened training camp with a team-wide address or a welcome video to the collective group — highlighting the clean slate and promise that comes whenever the league calendar flips and a new schedule shape.

Even though some foundational pieces on their blue line have been uprooted over the past few months, the expectations for this Bruins team haven't been altered, especially not with this roster still anchored by a veteran core featuring familiar faces such as Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Brad Marchand. 

Had this been a normal training camp, those expectations would have been echoed by coaches and vets alike in this team-wide introduction.

But, of course, this training camp — or season, year, etc. — is anything but normal.

"Because of restrictions mandated by the league and in the state of Massachusetts, the large gatherings we typically do ... we lost that opportunity to sort of address the group as a whole," Cassidy said on Monday, noting that most meetings are primarily relegated in smaller groupings of 10 or fewer individuals — or even into smaller assortments such as forward lines or defensive pairings.

Of course, fragmented meetings are far from the only thing that has been altered during this training camp.

For as much as a traditional NHL preseason can often overstay its welcome when it comes to the extended ramp-up that rosters put themselves through, you could make the case that Cassidy and his staff would opt for such a prolonged camp in a year like this — especially given the current hand they've been dealt.

Even though Cassidy's goal of thoroughly evaluating this roster remains unchanged from previous camps — the timeline afforded to him and his fellow coaches certainly has — as Boston only has a little over a week of practices and scrimmages allotted to it before rosters must be trimmed down and regular-season play begins (Jan. 14 @ NJD). 

And with an influx of young (but unproven) talent on the blue line, a top-line vacancy and other roster concerns still far from settled, it's becoming apparent that time won't be on Cassidy's side when it comes to crafting the optimal lineup before stakes are raised and these games start to matter in a 56-game campaign.