The absences of Matt Grzelcyk, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Mike Reilly, plus the possibility of Patrice Bergeron retiring could lead general manager Don Sweeney to make “a directional shift” for the Boston Bruins.
Speaking Tuesday morning, one day after firing head coach Bruce Cassidy, Sweeney explained that he felt a new voice was needed behind the bench.
“I felt both the message and how it was being delivered, and more importantly maybe how it was being received, young and old — players felt they were very well prepared, but young and old, at times, they struggled,” Sweeney said. “Sometimes that’s the voice in their head.”
Cassidy took over as Bruins head coach on Feb. 7, 2017. Over six seasons, they went 245-108-46 under Cassidy (.672 points percentage), making the playoffs all six seasons. The 57-year-old won the 2020 Jack Adams Award. Back in 2018-19, he led the team to within a win of a Stanley Cup, falling to the St. Louis Blues in a Game 7.
“It’s not a comfortable position to be in when you’ve got a popular coach both publicly and with the amount of success he’s had, it’s going to be an unpopular decision, it’s not going to resonate,” said Sweeney. “It didn’t sit well with me, very difficult decision as I referenced both personally and professionally.”
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Between the injuries that will affect the lineup early next season and the lack of available salary cap space, the Bruins will give younger players an opportunity to earn role on the roster. That means don’t expect much from Sweeney in free agency — the players returning from injury will be their big “additions” for 2022-23.
“Bringing back a similar type of roster, [Bergeron’s] a big part of that. I still have to wait for that decision, I don’t have any clarity on that as I stand here today” said Sweeney. “We are going to take shift, not unlike in 2015 when we introduced younger players. We have to continue to do a good job at that when they’re ready.”
A slow start next season could put the focus on Sweeney’s job and the decision that led to firing a successful coach. But the GM is confident this is the right move for where his team is heading and is not thinking about being on the hot start.
“It may fall that way. Today is not that day,” Sweeney said. “We have a good team. Do we have to pivot because of injuries? That may come.
“As it stands now, I have the support of the people I work with and work for and I’m grateful for that. To be held to that standard to inspire to be the best in the class, that is the standard you want to be held to.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.