Boston Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy is a far better communicator today than during his brief stint as Washington Capitals Coach in 2002-03. Cassidy has led Boston to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in six years. Associated Press/Charles Krupa

Skilled communicators know how to convey messages in one sentence. Boston Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy passed that test when I asked him what he had learned from being fired, and how it has made him a better coach than he was with the Washington Capitals.

“All I learned was I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin than I was then,” Cassidy said.

Bravo. He nailed it. Established professional athletes, especially ones who have a divisive element to their personalities, react to the first whiff of insecurity in a coach the way a shark shifts into kill mode at the scent of blood.

Everything about Cassidy screams secure now. He’s confident in his message to players, isn’t afraid to critique them publicly, yet never says anything they haven’t first heard from him. Plus, he’s secure enough to listen to their suggestions and applies them if and only if they make sense.

Cassidy masterfully keeps the message on his players and not on himself, never seeks credit, and doesn’t feel the need to showcase two traits that if you spend any time at all around the man you know he has in abundance: intelligence and humor. Confident, yet not egotistical. Winning combination.

Cassidy knows what to delegate. He also is secure enough to know when not to delegate. He runs the power play. He enjoys doing it and was good at that part of the game as a defenseman who had an otherwise unspectacular NHL career that spanned (mostly small) parts of six seasons and 36 games. So he coaches the power play and doesn’t care about whether anyone thinks that’s the right way to do it because he knows it’s the right way.

Not one to lapse into boring, autopilot answers, Cassidy expounded on where he fell short as a not-ready-for-prime-time coach.

“I was young,” said Cassidy, who turned 54 Monday and was 37 when he coached his first NHL game. “I really had no NHL experience. I was up in Chicago (as a player) for bits and pieces. So you walk into an NHL locker room, to me there was a little bit of awe in that whole, ‘There’s (Jaromir) Jagr. There’s (Sergei) Gonchar.’ These guys have been around, so it probably took me a while to just walk in there, be comfortable and say, ‘This is what we’re doing today,’ and still have the confidence and still be a good communicator while you’re doing that.”

Too late. Once he was branded, he didn’t have a chance.

He’s an excellent communicator now. Then? The Washington Post report about his firing midway through his second season mentioned that the interim coach who took over for him had become a liaison between Cassidy and the players who had stopped talking to the coach. How’s that for communication?

“I think I’ve learned over the years to, you know, sort of have that mentality a little bit more,” Cassidy said of communicating well and with confidence. “And listen, you’re around the game for an extra 15 years you’re going to learn stuff, just different ways to see the game. How do you delegate? How do you use your staff? How do you use your top-end players to help you find that common goal? So I think that was the biggest difference. A lot of newness back then. This time around there’s a little more experience at this level.”

In 2002-03, the Caps had a 92-point season under the rookie head coach, but when the boat took on water, he didn’t have the means to plug the leaks in very rough waters, agitated by Jagr, not calmed by the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara.

Another former Capitals player made news blasting Cassidy on a podcast last week, but could have made his point better had he not used such low-class language that it’s not even worth mentioning his name.

I asked Cassidy how much easier having Bergeron in the room made his job. He no doubt sensed I was making a comparison, wouldn’t have any of it, and supplied good stuff nonetheless. Public relations 101: If you don’t want to address part of the issue, make sure to pivot to a good answer of some sort, a method that leaves everybody happy.

“I’ve talked about that a lot, the leadership, and I don’t want to disparage the other one (Capitals), so let’s stick with this one here,” Cassidy said. “I think this leadership group is second to none. And I don’t know if I’ll ever have, wherever this career takes me, a group like this to work with. I’ve said that since probably the second week on the job here, that those guys are fantastic and they sure make a coach’s job a lot easier.”

When candid communicators pay a compliment you can believe it because they have credibility. And the stars are more unselfish, more coachable than the Caps’ big names.

Middle-aged Bruce Cassidy appreciates his stars, but isn’t in awe in their presence, a la a younger Bruce.

Cassidy and the Bruins have shown that when you mix a coach who’s ready for the job with a group that’s smart enough to be coached, and open channels of communication flow in both directions, big things can happen.

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