Boston Bruins fire head coach Bruce Cassidy in search of ‘new voice’

At 7 p.m. local time Monday night, the Boston Bruins announced they were replacing the head coach Bruce Cassidy of his homework.

In a presser discussing the move, the general manager Don Sweeney – who has struggled to make impactful and effective improvements to the roster over the past 12 months – said the decision would be helpful for “the direction of our team for this season and beyond” as they would bring “ a new voice. ”

Those who follow the league for long enough know what firing a high-performing coach who won the Jack Adams Award two years earlier in favor of a “new voice” usually means: “There’s something wrong not in the team and nothing moves. I can do because GM will fix it.

It also sometimes means: “This is my last asset before I too am unemployed.”

The Bruins have arguably underperformed this season in a very competitive division, despite winning 51 games. But that underperformance could be the result of, say, most of the team’s best players missing at least a handful of games due to injury (often at the same time), a slew of absences COVID that forced the big club to occasionally dress half the Providence Bruins, unpredictable streaks of dismal goaltenders (perhaps exacerbated by having two “1b” guys on the job), and poor shooting luck ( they had the second-lowest 5-on-5 shooting percentage in the league).

Other than that, it’s critical to note that the Bruins were top-five in every expected goal-sharing situation, including first overall at 5-on-5, and just about every metric for assess on-ice success said the team under Cassidy was elite or close to it.

That’s not to say there weren’t issues with Cassidy’s coaching job, and many of the same quibbles about the high quality of the on-ice product arose when Sweeney fired Claude Julien in 2017. At the time, most of the underlying numbers said the Bruins were great, but in the end, Cassidy ended up being a big upgrade.

As one always has to ask when firing a coach, “is there a better option out there?” In a market like this summer – where more than a third of the league has already hired a new coach, needs to officially promote an interim coach or is actively looking for a replacement – ​​the answer may well be yes. But again, will Sweeney be able to win gold twice?

Without going into theBarry Trotz? Peter DeBoer? Jim Montgomery? Jean Tortorelle? mike babcockOf all this, however, it must be said that anyone who hires the Bruins will struggle to make a positive impact right away. Just in the last few days, it has come out that Brad Merchant, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcykand Patrice Bergeron all have recently undergone surgery and are expected to be out for at least the first month of the season. And it is with recognition that Bergeron could well retire. Moreover, it is not clear whether Mike Reilly It’s going to be good to go start training camp.

So tough luge for the first segment of the season, no matter who’s behind the bench. Even though David Krejci and Bergeron are coming back to Boston, and they’re very cheap, Sweeney will have a hard time keeping the team afloat in October and November, if not longer, in part because Sweeney has given out a number of bad player contracts that don’t make not the kind of contribution needed at their price.

Barring some serious turnover and trades, it seems very likely that the Bruins will be able to compete for, say, another Wild Card slot. One that will be far more tenuous than command performance which happens to be fourth-best in their own division, but 10th in the league overall.

But the thing we have to come back to here is the part about ‘directing our team for this season and beyond’, and specifically the ‘beyond’ part. Because if it’s going to be widely acknowledged that the Bruins won’t be at full strength, or anything particularly close, for the first quarter of the season or so, and they’re relatively tight against the ceiling, that means that they are going to look to their children for help. And in the post-season pressers, the people who pulled the trigger on letting go of a coach as accomplished as Cassidy stressed that they wanted to make sure young players felt supported and would be allowed to grow in NHL games, rather than in practice or in the AHL. (We imagine that this also applies, perhaps to a lesser extent, to Jake DeBrusk exchange request.)

Cassidy may not have had many opportunities to bench the kids for mistakes at the start of next season, but that seems like recognition to me that the Bruins will have to do a little more than just figure it out for a few months. . We could be heading into “rebuild on the fly” territory.

That’s where the Bruins were when they first signed Cassidy, and only one NHL team (Tampa) has more points in the five years since. But Cassidy had several good years from Bergeron and Marchand and David Pastrňak and Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask rely on for years. His replacement will have a lot of good players around, but few at this level.

It looks like a club at a crossroads, unable to stick to the formula that took them to the league’s second-best record during Cassidy’s tenure – averaging 110 points per 82 games over the course of this period. Which forces them to take another route. One that many fans will not be happy with. But in the end, they thought Cassidy wasn’t the man to guide them. And it doesn’t look like it will be long before Sweeney follows Cassidy’s path.

Brandon D. James