In an absolutely baffling move announced Monday evening, the Boston Bruins have fired head coach Bruce Cassidy. Fans of the Bruins and the NHL in general felt surprised, confused, and convinced there’s more to this story.
Bruce Cassidy’s Tenure with the Boston Bruins
Cassidy, by pretty much any metric, was on one of the most successful tenures in the league. Since taking over the team in the 2016-17 season, he led the Bruins to six consecutive playoff appearances, four 100-point seasons (with the two partial/shortened seasons having 100-point paces), and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2018-19. Any team would be ecstatic to have a track record like that.
Apparently, the higher-ups in the Bruins’ organization were unhappy with the coaching and direction of the team and felt the need to make a change.
That leaves us asking why? Why now, while the team is still competitive, despite significant injury issues and roster turnover? When the team hasn’t committed yet to a rebuilding phase, why now?
Why did the Boston Bruins Fire Bruce Cassidy?
The general answer is as written above, the higher-ups were unhappy with the coaching. That’s about as vague and cliche as you could get. What else are they going to say, though? Hockey is all about the canned answers and it is not a good public relations strategy to start disclosing details about personnel decisions.
But despite the closed-off responses from those in the organization, we can ponder some potential reasons the Bruins would have made a coaching change right now.
1) An Appealing Market of Free Agent Coaches
There are quite a few enticing names on the coaching market right now. Usually, NHL coaches have a fairly short tenure so Cassidy’s six seasons may have been pushing it. With coaches like Barry Trotz, Paul Maurice, or even an outsider like Jukka Jalonen (who is one of the most successful coaches outside of the NHL), maybe the organization was wanting to make a move before it was too late.
Coaching the Boston Bruins would be an appealing addition to any coach’s resume, so they wouldn’t have to be too worried about the amount of other vacancies around the league. A team like this would have an easy time attracting a top candidate like Trotz.
2) An Attempt to Extend the Competitive Window
Let’s face it, the Bruins’ core is aging out quickly. Tuukka Rask retired due to injury. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are in their mid 30’s. And the roster in general has undergone massive turnover in recent years with a lack of high-quality prospects coming up to replace what was lost.
All of this goes to show that the Bruins’ competitive window is closing rapidly in a highly competitive Atlantic Division. With the knowledge that Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk were going to be on the injured reserve to start the season, maybe firing Cassidy now is a desperate attempt to ensure the team has one or two more competitive seasons before rebuilding.
Would the Bruins bring in a coach like John Tortorella to try and get the team overperforming with a weaker roster for another season or two? We know his coaching style, and to be honest it kind of matches the identity of Boston Bruins hockey.
3) Internal Issues
This is an option we will likely never get the full, true story on. But it is always something that comes to mind with these surprising, out of nowhere coaching moves.
We’ve heard that the team wanted to make a change. That they weren’t particularly happy with the direction of the coaching or the team.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that there were issues or conflicts between Cassidy and the others in the organization. But it does signal that there was a disconnect, likely an irreconcilable one. Whether it is strategic or coach/team relationship related, we do not know. But the team felt, for one reason or another, that they could not continue forward with him as head coach.
4) The Team is Ready to Rebuild
As previously mentioned, the team will be without Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyk to start the season. This is on top of the rumours of Bergeron considering retirement. With other roster moves, downgrades, and turnover, the team is clearly almost hitting a rebuilding phase.
Maybe, they have decided that this is the time to start it. The direction and strategy of the team have changed and they would rather start a new chapter of the team’s history with a new coach than drag one of Cassidy’s calibre through a difficult few seasons.
I see the likely reason being that the organization wants to still win, despite a weakening roster. They are starting to see diminishing results with Cassidy at the helm, and are making a bit of a desperation move to prolong the inevitable rebuild. They understand the roster composition has changed and need the coaching philosophy to change along with it.
What do you think about this surprising move out of Boston? Drop a comment down below with what’s going on in the Bruins organization!
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