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2019 Eastern Conference Preview: A very fun Jaromir Jagr/Bruce Cassidy story

Who should Pens’ fans be cheering for, Boston or Carolina?

2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Boston Bruins v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The world of the Pittsburgh Penguins is quiet at the moment, as general manager Jim Rutherford has managed to go about a week without making any potentially inflammatory comments for media and fans to run and go crazy with.

The NHL playoffs are still churning on, and the conference finals matchups are set. In the East, the Carolina Hurricanes have come out of the first two rounds of the Metropolitan bracket. Since this playoff format started in 2014, it had always been the New York Rangers (2014, 15), Pens (2016, 2017) or Washington Capitals (2018) winning this side of the bracket, so perhaps there is another changing of the guard in place.

Carolina will meet the Boston Bruins, who downed Columbus in six games in the Atlantic side of the bracket. Boston has been coached since 2017 by Bruce Cassidy, and I still can’t shake a story from 2002 about him.

Back then Cassidy was a rookie coach in Washington in 2002, the second season Jaromir Jagr was in town. Jagr gave an interview with the Czech publication Sport Daily that got translated on

The Cassidy/Jagr relationship was not a great one!

The team is coached by a NHL rookie Bruce Cassidy. Back in the Czech Republic, the information about him is quite ambiguous. How is he? Allegedly, sometimes he isn’t afraid to chew the team’s stars out.

I don’t talk to him at all. I have no idea.

What’s your relationship with him?

I don’t know. He is 36. I don’t know. I don’t talk to him at all.


It [the situation?] is something completely different from what I expected. We simply don’t communicate with each other.

Doesn’t Cassidy’s minimal experience with coaching of such an ambitious team show?

Everybody has to learn. But I don’t want to comment on that.

Does Robert Lang talk to Cassidy?

I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him. But I don’t think [he does].

You don’t even say one word to him?

That’s why we have a captain. He talks to him.

Seriously, you have never said to him one single word?




So you have no relationship whatsoever.

A professional one.

Neither good, nor bad.

I know he is here and he know that I’m here.

That’s odd, isn’t it?

I have the relationship with him as a regular player. For him, the captain is important. Right now I don’t want anything from him.

Has he ever criticized you?

If you make a mistake, he’ll make you feel it.

And does Cassidy manage to do his job?

I have no idea. I simply don’t care about that.

This was a great time in internet history where it wasn’t so wide-spread and dominant in daily life, so European stars felt comfortable to give brutally honest interviews like the above in their native tongues and not really have to worry about it blowing back across into America. Not that Jagr probably would have cared anyway, as in that interview he also said “Certainly, hockey right now is just a work for me, no joy,” as the bland, boring, and subpar Capitals teams had robbed him of the fun of uptempo hockey — quite the professional culture shock from his days in Pittsburgh!

Predictably, Cassidy didn’t last very long as the Caps’ head coach and was out of the NHL from 2003 until brought up to be Boston’s assistant in 2016 and eventually head coach in 2017. Cassidy has seemed to figure the coaching gig out, now getting the Bruins to advance in the playoffs, and he probably has better communication with his current Czech star David Pastrnak.

On a more modern note, Boston vs. Carolina is an Eastern Conference Final almost no one would have expected when the regular season ended, but here we are. One team has Jordan Staal and the other has Brad Marchand, so it’s pretty easy decision on who I hope wins, but we’ll see how Pens fans feel too. It’s a bit odd to not be rooting for the demise of a division foe, but perhaps it’s only fitting as the end to a very unforeseen, weird, and not good playoff spring.


Who do you hope wins?

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