The Bruce Cassidy era in Boston is over, and the Bruins are worse off because of it.
The Bruins announced Monday they fired their longtime head coach. Cassidy was the fourth-longest tenured head coach in the NHL entering Monday, having been hired in February of 2017 when he replaced Claude Julien.
"After taking some time to fully digest everything, I felt that the direction of our team for both this season and beyond would benefit from a new voice," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said in a press release.
Even though anyone who listened to the end-of-season press conferences with team president Cam Neely and Sweeney last month shouldn't be completely surprised by this decision, it's still very much a bad one.
Put simply, Cassidy did the best he could each year he was on the job and consistently got the most out of rosters that were too often flawed, either with a lack of talent, depth or both.
The Bruins reached the playoffs in all six seasons that Cassidy was the head coach. In that time, the Bruins had the second-most wins of any team during the regular season and the fourth-most playoff victories. The Bruins won at least one playoff round in four of his six seasons behind the bench, and in 2019 they were one win away from a Stanley Cup title.
You could make a strong argument the Bruins actually overachieved with Cassidy. The fact that they won 51 games this past season with one legit top-six center, plenty of injuries, 10-plus players getting COVID-19, blue line concerns and a lack of scoring depth, was actually a remarkable accomplishment for Cassidy.
Cassidy's lineup tweaks in early January, specifically putting Taylor Hall, Erik Haula and David Pastrnak on the second line, literally saved the season. From Jan. 1 to the end of the regular season, Boston had the league's third-best record at 37-16-3.
The B's lost in the first round to the league's third-best regular season team in a Game 7 on the road. The Bruins were pretty banged up in that series, too. It was a frustrating end to the year, but certainly not a result worthy of being fired.
The person who should have been fired is Sweeney. He has done a horrible job drafting since taking over the GM role in 2015. The draft failures are the primary reason why Boston has lacked the amount of scoring and blue line depth needed to go deep in the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup.
Not only is Sweeney's draft record poor, his free agent signings have mostly been awful. The worst decision was acquiring David Backes, who wasn't even good enough to be in the lineup for Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. It was a colossal waste of $6 million in salary cap space.
Sweeney failed to capitalize on the last good years of a core that at one point included Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Tuukka Rask, among others.
The general manager, not the coach, is the real problem plaguing this franchise. But instead, the GM is going to get a new contract and pick the next coach.
Good luck with that.
Could Cassidy have done some things better? Absolutely. Developing younger players and giving them a little more of a chance to succeed, especially if they struggle early, is a change that has to be made going forward.
But it's not like Cassidy was given the best young talent to work with. Jack Studnicka is not a top-six player. Neither were Anders Bjork, Ryan Donato and others who didn't meet expectations. Trent Frederic has shown nothing to suggest he's a quality middle-six center at the NHL level after Sweeney reached to take him in Round 1 in 2016. Pastrnak and McAvoy have blossomed into elite players under Cassidy's coaching, and DeBrusk has scored 19-plus goals three times in the last four years, so he's capable of developing good young talent.
Cassidy isn't likely to be unemployed long. He's one of the league's top coaches and has plenty of experience dealing with the stress of coaching in a major, high-pressure market.
Meanwhile, the Bruins will go into the fall with their top scorer in Marchand and top defenseman in McAvoy both unavailable for the start of the 2022-23 season after they recently had offseason surgeries. Now they need a new head coach and Bergeron could potentially retire.
All signs point toward a rough 2022-23 campaign for the Bruins.