It was a real grilling today in Boston, where Bruins GM Don Sweeney had to answer for firing Claude Julien on the same day the Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots were parading through the city.
Sweeney was asked multiple times about the optics of this morning’s announcement. He insisted he didn’t want to take anything away from the football team, but that the Bruins’ schedule provided an opportunity to make the coaching change.
“We had a couple of days off,” said Sweeney, “and we have two days of practice before we (play) a few games, and then we have a real opportunity to step back from the emotion of this and allow the players to get away and vacate mentally and physically. I felt there was an opportunity today and tomorrow to get their feet in the ground for a practice environment, which we haven’t had.”
He added, “I apologize that it fell on a day where obviously New England is incredibly excited, but I didn’t make the schedule.”
Bruce Cassidy will take over behind the bench on an interim basis. Sweeney is hoping that a fresh set of eyes and a new voice, with a few tweaks to the system and perhaps more up-tempo practices, will help get the Bruins into the playoffs.
But Sweeney also acknowledged that the roster he’s assembled has shortcomings, and he doesn’t intend to sacrifice the future for the sake of the next couple of months. To illustrate, he referenced his refusal this past summer to trade David Pastrnak for defensive help.
“I’m not deviating from the plan,” he said.
So, why fire Julien then?
“We have areas, and we have gaps, in our game that exist,” said Sweeney. “Whether that’s strictly personnel-related, or whether or not those are some tweaks that we need to make, that’s what’s going to unfold here.”
So, basically, the rest of the season is going to be an audition. If the Bruins can turn it around, Cassidy will be in the running for the full-time job. If not, it will be up to another coach.
“I’m excited about whether or not [Cassidy] and his coaching staff can make their own imprint,” said Sweeney. “Let’s see where that goes.”