Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney spoke this morning about the decision to relieve Bruce Cassidy of his duties as head coach, emphasizing it was part of his recommendation to move forward in a new direction and have a “new voice” in the locker room.
Sweeney said the decision was made after reflecting for a few weeks on the season and was also impacted with where things are headed to start the 2022-23 season with injuries and subsequent surgeries have many key players missing its start.
Speaking with scouts, management, and ownership, the Bruins’ front office arrived at the decision that they needed to make a change as their expectations for this season weren’t met. After a first-round playoff exit, he said the Bruins collectively felt a lot was left on the table. He thought the depth of the lineup didn’t show through against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Sweeney said an influence of the decision to move forward without Cassidy was “both the message and how it was being delivered – and more importantly how it was being received.”
He went on to discuss how that message delivery fell to both younger and older guys on the roster and that ownership had to be taken.
“I think the players, you know, felt they were very well prepared but at times, young and old, they struggle,” Sweeney said. “Sometimes that’s the voice that’s in their head and I think ultimately I had to make a decision that takes us in a different path.”
Sweeney said the players themselves didn’t sway his decision and didn’t feel Cassidy ever lost control of the locker room at any point.
“They’re not driving the bus in terms of making my decisions,” Sweeney said. “They impact our hockey club more than any of us. They are invested and they want to know how invested the organization is.”
The Bruins have a list of potential candidates for their head coach position. “The search is going to take me some time to go through and do my due diligence,” Sweeney said.
Some takeaways from his press conference:
- Sweeney said it was not a comfortable position to be in, making the decision on a coach that’s popular with the fans and that Cassidy also did not take the news well when it was decided yesterday afternoon.
- He thanked Cassidy for his time as head coach and said he’ll likely have no problem finding his next head coaching opportunity. Sweeney said the players respected Cassidy, and like him, think he’s a terrific coach. He went on later to say that Patrice Bergeron’s pending decision on his future had no influence on letting Cassidy go.
- Sweeney was asked about if he felt Cassidy had lost control of his locker room and if that affected the decision. Sweeney responded with this comment on Cassidy and his coaching: “You don’t go out and get 107 points and win 51 games if players aren’t responding to you,” Sweeney said. “He’s able to push the buttons that are necessary. But it takes its toll over the course of time. You have to find a way to deliver that message a little differently or the personnel changes and you cycle it out.”
- Sweeney saw the bulk of the Bruins’ second-half of the season as positive, particularly the stretch of play between January to March. He thought goaltending was making good strides and hopes that will continue as Jeremy Swayman matures. He commented that he overall thought the defensive group as a whole was pretty strong, but that the defense needs to get healthy.
- He also emphasized where he sees the Bruins developing: “We are going to take a shift where we institute younger players,” Sweeney said. This kept resonating throughout Sweeney’s responses and that they are looking for a “balance of development and infusion of talent when guys are ready.” He referenced David Pastrnak’s development and what the team is doing with Fabian Lysell right now.
- Sweeney said they will “cast the net wider” in finding a new head coach and NHL level experience is “not necessarily a prerequisite.” He said they have a young group of guys, like Charlie McAvoy and Pastrnak, who are the next core of players. Sweeney said the next coach will have to “direct effectively among all those age groups.”
- Sweeney and the front office will look for a process driven and structure guy for their next head coach who will they hope will continue “to evolve involving our defense” and special teams. Sweeney said he’s looking for someone with “the communication skills to bridge the gap between younger and older players.”
- Sweeney mentioned that he has spoken to David Krejci’s representatives and expects he will be contacting Krejci soon.