Bruce Cassidy won't be behind the bench for the Boston Bruins next season.
Several weeks after the team lost in the first round of the NHL playoffs, the Bruins announced Monday evening they had relieved Cassidy of his duties as head coach, calling it "an extremely difficult decision."
"Today I informed Bruce Cassidy that I was making a head coaching change," Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney said in a press release. "After 14 years working with Bruce, this was an extremely difficult decision. I want to thank and acknowledge Bruce for all his work and success with the Bruins organization. His head coaching record for the Bruins is impressive, and we are appreciative of Bruce both professionally and personally."
The Bruins posted a 51-26-5 record during the 2021-22 season, finishing in the top Wild Card playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They failed to advance to the second round of the playoffs, however, with the Carolina Hurricanes eliminating them in seven games.
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"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," Sweeney added. "I want to wish Bruce, Julie, Shannon and Cole much success as a family and with their future opportunities."
Cassidy was named the Bruins' interim head coach on Feb. 7, 2017, following the firing of Claude Julien. He was officially named Boston's head coach less than three months later.
The Bruins made the playoffs in each of Cassidy's six seasons behind the bench, and they were within one victory of the Stanley Cup in 2019, a hard-fought series against the St. Louis Blues that the Bruins lost in a heartbreaking Game 7 on their home ice.
Following the 2019-20 season, Cassidy was named the Jack Adams Award winner as the NHL's Coach of the Year. During his head coaching tenure in Boston, Cassidy amassed a 245-108-46 record through 399 regular-season games.
Many Bruins fans were shocked to learn about Cassidy's firing Monday, with some expressing disappointment.
“Oh, I don’t like when they do that,” Bianka Orsaneu said.
“Two days before the Celtics play in the Finals? I don’t think that’s right. I think that’s cruel,” said Eric Winders. “They should’ve waited. At least give him a little bit of time.”
“He got close to getting a Stanley Cup. You know, the fans here love when we go all the way,” said Joe Fox. “Now it’s from the next coach in line to just have that same attitude.”
The 57-year-old Cassidy immediately becomes a top candidate for vacancies in Philadelphia, Chicago, Winnipeg, Vegas and Detroit and any others that may now come open because of his availability. After struggling for two seasons with Washington in his first NHL head-coaching job, from 2002-04, Cassidy worked his way back with the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate in Providence before eventually taking over in Boston.
Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs and President Cam Neely thanked Cassidy for his time in Boston, calling him a "fantastic" coach and wishing him well in his future endeavors.
"On behalf of the Jacobs family, I'd like to thank Bruce and his family for their dedication to the Boston Bruins organization," Jacobs said. "Throughout his time in both Providence and Boston, Bruce's deep passion for the game and pride he showed in representing the franchise was undeniable. We wish Bruce, Julie and his entire family nothing but success in the future and thank them for all they've done for the team both on and off the ice."
"I want to thank Bruce for his time and service to the Boston Bruins organization over the last 14 years," Neely added. "Bruce has been a fantastic coach and has helped this team win many games and achieve success over his tenure behind the bench. I also want to extend my gratitude to Bruce and his family for everything they've done over the years to support the New England community and Bruins organization. We wish them continued success in the future."
The search for Cassidy's replacement will begin immediately, the team said. Neely noted he has the utmost confidence in Sweeney to find the best candidate to help the Bruins reach their full potential.
Whoever takes over for Cassidy faces a task of coaching a lineup that is expected to be without first-line left winger Brad Marchand and top defenseman Charlie McAvoy for at least the first two months of next season while they recover from surgery. Captain Patrice Bergeron, who won a record fifth Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward, is also recovering from surgery while simultaneously mulling retirement.
Bruins fan Alex Corcoran has one suggestion for who should take the reins next: “Let’s bring in the Great One. Let’s bring in Gretzky. Let’s see what he can do. He didn’t do so well with the Coyotes, but we need to bring him up north, bring him up to Boston and show him some real hockey fans."
“We need a little more energy,” argued Caroline Hurly. “We need a little more something to get us there. Yeah. But I think that hopefully a new coach will energize the team and energize the city.”
Sweeney is expected to address the firing at a press conference Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, the Bruins training and practice facility.
The Associated Press contributed to this report