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Why Did The Bruins Fire Bruce Cassidy?

The erstwhile Boston coach seemed to get good results and the team isn't really in a position to rebuild with its current roster.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins relieved coach Bruce Cassidy of his duties Monday night in a move that shocked most of the hockey world. After all, Cassidy seemed to be humming along in Boston, even though the Bruins had lost their first-round series against the favored Carolina Hurricanes.

So now we speculate.

Cassidy had helmed the Bruins for six seasons, getting the team to the Stanley Cup final in 2019 and getting past the first round most other years. During that time, you would rarely say he was outcoached in a series, and in fact did some outcoaching himself, particularly against Toronto. As for this year's edition, you could hardly fault the B's for losing to Carolina, especially with key deadline acquisition Hampus Lindholm limited to four games due to injury.

And if you're thinking about a rebuild in Boston, consider the timing: Sure, Patrice Bergeron's future playing status is unknown right now, but this team still has Lindholm, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle on long-term deals.

Now, McAvoy and Marchand are also part of a Bruins cohort that will miss the beginning of the 2022-23 season while they recover from surgery, so perhaps Boston doesn't get off to a rollicking start next year - but they still have David Pastrnak to hold down the fort early on.

Looking at the Atlantic Division, the Bruins should still be a playoff team, though one squarely behind Florida, Toronto and Tampa Bay on paper. A young upstart such as Ottawa, Detroit or Buffalo could give the B's trouble, but at the least, the Bruins will not be an underdog.

If GM Don Sweeney was really going to rebuild, he'd have to cast out a number of contracts and somehow convince Pastrnak, who is a pending unrestricted free agent next summer, to stick around through some tough times (and keep in mind, unlike Marchand, Pastrnak does not have a Stanley Cup ring yet).

Not only that, but the Bruins pipeline isn't exactly overflowing right now. In this year's edition of Future Watch, Boston was ranked 29th in the NHL and some of the best prospects - Fabian Lysell, Johnny Beecher, Georgi Merkulov - still need more pro seasoning before they could be counted on to be true difference-makers. In fact, the most important young player next year will likely be goaltender Jeremy Swayman again.

So you can't strip it down because you won't be bad enough and even if you did, the prospects you have aren't ready to take on big NHL roles anyway.

Which doesn't leave us with many options. Sweeney claimed that Cassidy had not lost the room and that the players did not drive the decision, but what if he's just taking a bullet here? Boston has one of the best dressing room cultures in the NHL and Sweeney must be aware of how his decision would have gone down with the team. Maybe the fit wasn't as good as we thought.

Either way, Sweeney is getting skewered in Boston right now and his replacement for Cassidy needs to be a good one. Barry Trotz, another pink-slip surprise, is available and he can get the most out of any lineup. Certainly he'll be in high demand this summer, but winning in Boston is a pretty fun thing. Pete DeBoer and John Tortorella are other veteran bench bosses who bring instant name recognition.

Whatever put Cassidy on the chopping block now has Sweeney staring at the searing spotlight himself once again. Which direction will the Bruins go?

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