Firing Bruce Cassidy is not the answer
From top to bottom, organizationally the Boston Bruins have issues. But find me a professional sports franchise that doesn’t.
On Wednesday, general manager Don Sweeney met with the media for his end of the season availability, revealing his contract (that expires at the end of the current season) had not been renewed yet, but expected something to be finalized shortly.
Team president Cam Neely confirmed such on Thursday.
“I started talking with [CEO] Charlie [Jacobs] and [Owner] Mr. [Jeremy] Jacobs after the deadline about extending Don, so that’s my plan, is to do that,” Neely said. “I’m going to sit down with Don in the next day or two and hopefully hammer something out.”
While Neely made it clear that Sweeney’s job is safe, the same can’t be said for head coach Bruce Cassidy. Neely’s comments Thursday didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling when it comes to Cassidy being behind the Bruins bench next season.
Cassidy certainly is not one of the Bruins organizational issues.
“I think we have to look at making some changes as far as how we play and the way we do some of the things. I think Bruce is a fantastic coach. I mean, he's brought a lot of success to this organization. I like him as a coach. So, we'll see where it goes. But I do think we need to make some changes,” Neely said.
One thing that Neely is spot on about is changing the way the Bruins play. They’re too top heavy and quite frankly, not that good of a five-on-five team, among other issues.
But to me, that’s more on the pieces Sweeney has brought in, than it is a reflection of how Cassidy has coached.
Since the Bruce Cassidy took over for a fired Claude Julien on Feb. 17, 2017, only the Tampa Bay Lightning (560) have more points than the Bruins do at 536. Next closest are the Washington Capitals with 516.
“Don and I are going to connect. I know he's got meetings coming up with the coaching staff, so we'll see where that goes,” Neely said. “I haven't really talked to Don about it yet. So, he hasn't really given me an indication. Only because probably he's not really sure what his situation was.”
Cassidy has done an outstanding job of getting the most out his players, utilizing the cards Sweeney has dealt him. But I don’t put the Bruins recent playoff failures on Cassidy. Trying to win with a three-of-a-kind or a straight is difficult when there’s nothing but flushes and full houses at your table.
The Bruins issues are nothing new. The issue of true replacements for Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci didn’t just appear overnight.
Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk failing to meet expectations, getting exposed on a nightly basis in the playoffs is not breaking news.
Depth players like Tomas Nosek, Nick Foligno, Trent Frederic and Craig Smith combining for one playoff goal in the Bruins series with the Hurricanes is a movie we’ve seen more often than we like.
To me, that’s more on Sweeney than it is Cassidy.
Tough to put together a gourmet meal without quality ingredients.
Now find it strange that Sweeney wasn’t extended earlier in the season you may, but Neely has a simple explanation for that.
“To be honest, I really wanted to see how the year went. We had a lot of changes in the last offseason, so I just really wanted to see how that played out,” Neely said.
“Obviously, you get January, February, March – really good months for us. The team really came together. I thought we had a lot of depth and I was happy with what he [Sweeney] did at the deadline.”
Ah, so there you have it. Sweeney’s job was saved at the deadline thanks to a trade for Hampus Lindholm. Don’t get me wrong, like Neely, I liked that trade. But once again, as it has been under the Neely/Sweeney regime, it wasn’t enough.
The Bruins needed more than Lindholm. That top-six forward they never got at the deadline sure would have helped in any of your four losses in Carolina.
Here is how I read this situation:
Jeremy Jacobs needs someone to take the fall for the playoff disappointment year-after-year with Neely and Sweeney in charge, but he won’t let it fall on Neely.
Neely won’t let it fall on Sweeney because in part, if Sweeney falls on the sword, Neely shoulders a decent chunk of the blame as well.
So for Neely, the easy road is to shove the blame Cassidy’s way, firing him for it, hiding behind the belief that at the end of the day, the decision was Sweeney’s to make.
No blood on Neely's hands he'll feel.
Get that resume ready, Bruce. Sounds like you’re taking the fall for another failure by your bosses.
This one, would arguably be their biggest.