By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — During the past two-and-a-half seasons of Claude Julien’s tenure as Boston Bruins head coach, few players moved around the lineup and got into as much trouble with the coach as Ryan Spooner. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t appreciate what Julien did for him as a player.
In two days of practice with interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, Spooner has been moved to his natural center position after largely playing on the wing in 2016-17. It would not be surprising if Spooner saw the benefits for him as a player to have a more offensive-minded head coach, but he didn’t lose sight of how he benefitted from Julien’s toughness as a coach and how it made him better.
When asked after Wednesday’s practice for his feelings on Julien getting fired in light of the criticism he received from the coach at times, Spooner took the high road.
“I think at the end of the day, [Julien] just wanted me to be the best player that I can be, and that’s fine,” said Spooner. “I think he’s going to move on; he’s a great coach and he’s going to do well.”
Spooner has shown flashes of his offensive talent at times but got into hot water with Julien over mistakes and inconsistency in his own end. Cassidy won’t necessarily fix any problems that may still exist, but he will give Spooner an opportunity to open up his game more offensively.
When asked if he saw the new coach as a new opportunity to “reset,” Spooner replied: “In a way, yeah. [Cassidy] was my coach for two-and-a-half years [in Providence]. he kind of knows the player I am. It’s kind of like a fresh start.”
Spooner got a chance to move back to center during training camp, but the Bruins’ logjam at the position eventually moved him off. He feels confident that the new “pace” Cassidy has brought to practice can mean good things for him moving forward.
“I can skate well. I’ve just got to go out there and use my speed,” said Spooner.
There are a number of players on the Bruins who appeared to be underachieving this season. In Spooner’s case, the “ups and downs” have gone on for the better part of two-plus seasons. Cassidy’s increased focus on speed and offense – and Spooner’s move to his natural position – make him a strong candidate to turn things around in the stretch run.
Regardless of who’s been behind the bench for the Bruins, Spooner has yet to put it all together and be the best player he can be. Cassidy has a chance to unlock his untapped potential.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.