Bruins fire coach Bruce Cassidy after 1st-round playoff exit

Jun 6, 2022, 4:21 AM | Updated: 5:21 pm
FILE -Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, center, gestures during the third period of an NHL ho...

FILE -Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, center, gestures during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, April 16, 2022, in Boston. The Bruins have fired Cassidy several weeks after losing in the first round of the playoffs. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Bruins have fired coach Bruce Cassidy, who led them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, the best record in the league the next year and at least 100 points in each of his four full non-pandemic seasons behind the bench.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced the move Monday night, three weeks after the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

“This was an extremely difficult decision,” Sweeney said in a statement. “His head coaching record for the Bruins is impressive, and we are appreciative of Bruce both professionally and personally.”

The Bruins made the playoffs in each of Cassidy’s six seasons since he took over for Claude Julien in February 2017. He coached them within one victory of the Stanley Cup in 2019 against the St. Louis Blues.

But the team hasn’t gotten out of the second round since then, including a Game 7 loss to Carolina this spring. Afterward, team president Cam Neely said: “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,” Neely said at his end-of-season media availability. “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.”

On Monday, Neely delivered the verdict.

“Bruce has been a fantastic coach and has helped this team win many games and achieve success over his tenure behind the bench,” he said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in Don to conduct a thorough search to identify the best candidate that is going to help our team reach its full potential.”

The Jack Adams Award winner as the NHL’s top coach in 2020, Cassidy becomes a top candidate for vacancies in Philadelphia, Chicago, Winnipeg, Vegas and Detroit. Others may 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 to the NHL with the Bruins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Providence.

Cassidy, 57, took over in Boston from Julien, who led the team to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and back to the final two years later. With the core of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask, Cassidy brought the team to the cusp of another title in 2019 before losing to St. Louis in seven games.

During the pandemic-interrupted 2019-20 season the Bruins amassed 100 points in 70 games and claimed the Presidents Trophy for the league’s best record. But after Rask left the postseason bubble to tend to a family emergency, the team lost in the second round.

After another second-round exit last year, the Bruins qualified for this year’s postseason with a wild-card berth and did not make it out of the first round.

The team has since announced that Marchand, the top scorer, and Charlie McAvoy, the No. 1 defenseman, will miss the first two months of next season while recovering from surgery. Bergeron, who won his record fifth Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward, is unsigned and has not committed to playing another season; he is also recovering from surgery.

In all, Cassidy was 245-108-46 in Boston and is 292-155-9-7 in his NHL coaching career.

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AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

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Bruins fire coach Bruce Cassidy after 1st-round playoff exit