Bruce Cassidy always told it like it was. Never held back on any question posed to him and answered in a candid, forthright fashion.
The guess is that some of his players in the Boston Bruins’ locker room might’ve grown tired of that mantra.
There are only a couple of dozen men privy to what went on in the Bruins locker room on a daily basis and how the recently deposed Cassidy treated those who played for him. One would reasonably deduce that the man who coached the Bruins to playoff berths in each of his six seasons, won 245 of the 399 games he spent behind the Boston bench, and led them to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2019, would make the same blunt assessments to his charges that he then went and told the press when asked about them.
Perhaps some of those players didn’t appreciate constantly being called out, both in front of their peers and then in public. Perhaps he wasn’t willing to deviate from the ways in which he felt gave the Bruins the best chance to win given the talent at his disposal. Perhaps Cassidy’s message grew tiresome, like a song you know is terrific but eventually get sick of the 2,915th time you hear it.
All we know is the Bruins decided to part ways with Cassidy late Monday night.
Now, with a roster that will be without two of their best players (Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy) to start the season due to offseason surgery — in addition to defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly for the same reason — plus not knowing if captain Patrice Bergeron, fresh off of winning his NHL-record fifth Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward (and who also had offseason elbow surgery, although he should be good to go again by September), the Black-and- Gold find themselves in a state of real uncertainty for the first time since the last days of Claude Julien’s tenure in early 2017.
Reading the tea leaves, it seemed evident someone was going to take the fall for what was deemed to be a subpar season (first round exit in 7 games vs. Carolina) by Bruins standards. Never mind that Cassidy wasn’t the one who drafted poorly over the last half-dozen years (or traded away first round picks), or made questionnaire free agent signings, or gave up too much to receive too little in return during trade season more often than not. He, apparently, did not get as much out of the club as his bosses hoped for, and in a results business it was time for a change.
General Manager Don Sweeney (still operating without a contract, but a virtual guarantee to get a new one shortly) was not going to fire himself. His boss and longtime teammate, President Cam Neely, wasn’t going to let Sweeney go, either. This thought process contradicts greatly with the vast majority of Bruins fans, who feel Sweeney — who spoke Tuesday morning of the need for a new ‘voice’ in charge of the Bruins’ bench — should be the one updating his resume, not Cassidy.
(As an aside: Bruins fans are most certainly not Celtics fans, where everything is seen through green-tinted glasses and there’s a the-sun-will-come-up-tomorrow’ mentality, no matter how dire the situation may appear. Bruins fans, on the other hand, are used to pouring their hearts and wallets out for an organization that always shows flashes of brilliance before ultimately tormenting them again and again. These diehards tend to look at things a bit more, shall we say, pessimistically).
So Cassidy’s gone, and there’s no shortage of names cropping up as potential bench bosses to replace him: Jay Leach. David Quinn. Joe Sacco. Barry Trotz. Nate Leaman. Ted Donato. Peter DeBoer. Mark Recchi. John Tortorella (please God, no).
A new coach isn’t going to bring McAvoy and Marchand back before the first snow falls. He’s probably not going to have much sway in whether Bergeron opts to come back to the only organization he’s ever played for or retires to be with his wife and three children in Quebec. He’s going to have a difficult time getting Jake DeBrusk to play more consistently, to get a night-in, night-out meaningful contribution out of Trent Frederic, to get Brandon Carlo to play up to his size physically, to make Jack Studnicka an everyday NHLer, to bring David Krejci back into the fold.
The end-of-season playoff result was disappointing enough for the Bruins and their fans. Getting rid of a highly successful coach and leaving an injury-riddled lineup without much depth as they plan for the 2022-23 season over the next four months doesn’t seem like the best way to improve the club, though.
Contact Phil Stacey