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Former Blackhawk of the Week: Bruce Cassidy

The Bruins’ bench boss was a former first-round pick of the Blackhawks before knee injuries derailed his playing career.

2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Media Day Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

(Author’s note: with the NHL offseason potentially just two games away, we’ve revived our ‘Former Blackhawk of the Week’ series to guide us through the upcoming hockey-less months. We begin with a name that’s on the minds of most hockey fans at the moment.)

In a few weeks, the Blackhawks will select third in the 2019 NHL Draft, a pick that could have massive ramifications for the future of this team. Thirty-six years ago, while picking in the first round, the Blackhawks selected a 5-foot-11, 176-pound defenseman from Ottawa that they hoped would have similar results. Bruce Cassidy’s NHL career was short-lived, as he’s had much more success behind the bench than he did on the ice. But at one time, the Blackhawks deemed Cassidy’s hockey abilities worthy of the 18th overall selection in the 1983 NHL Draft.

While playing with the Ottawa 67’s, Cassidy won the 1984 Memorial Cup and then debuted with the Blackhawks in March of that year, registering one shot on goal in his first and only game that season. But Cassidy’s future was altered that summer when he suffered a knee injury during offseason training, which cost him virtually all of the ‘84-85 season. That began a stretch of multiple seasons hampered by recurring knee issues that resulted in three surgeries as Cassidy bounced around between various levels of hockey.

His longest stretch with the Blackhawks came during the ‘87-88 season, when Cassidy played 21 games with three goals and 10 assists. The following season, Cassidy notched a pair of assists in nine games and skated in his lone playoff game: a 4-2, series-clinching win against the St. Louis Blues in the Norris Division Final.

By the turn of the decade, Cassidy was off to Europe, playing for three seasons in Italy and another in Germany before returning to the Blackhawks organization by playing three seasons with the Indianapolis Ice of the IHL. Ten games into the ‘96-97 season, Cassidy retired to become the head coach of the ECHL’s Jacksonville Lizard Kings.

Cassidy worked his way up the coaching ranks from there, landing his first NHL head coaching gig with the Washington Capitals in 2002. By the ‘03-04 season, though, Cassidy was fired 25 games into the season, a season that sent the Capitals into the draft lottery and they emerged with Alexander Ovechkin as their draft pick.

It was another return to the Blackhawks organization in June 2004 when Cassidy signed on as an assistant coach under Trent Yawney. After a lockout erased the ‘04-05 season, Cassidy was behind the bench as Chicago limped to just 65 points. Cassidy’s contract wasn’t renewed but, just like Washington, Chicago emerged with a franchise cornerstone in the ensuing draft: Jonathan Toews.

Cassidy landed on his feet, though, turning an OHL gig into an AHL gig into an NHL assistant coach gig before being named the interim head coach of the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7, 2017. The interim tag was removed two months later and on Thursday night, Cassidy will lead the Bruins into a pivotal Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.