Bruins general manager Don Sweeney met with the media Tuesday morning to explain why he decided to fire head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Throughout his press conference, Sweeney kept coming back to one thing: Voice. The driving factor behind this decision was that Sweeney believes the team needed a new one.
Andrew Raycroft reacts to the firing of Bruce Cassidy
“The timing, after taking a few weeks to unpack a lot of things that happen over the course of the year, and where I thought our team was currently and equally -- with some of the surgeries and some of the things coming out -- where our team was gonna be going forward, impacting our club, I just felt that the messaging and the voice that was gonna be required, I felt we needed a new direction,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney insisted that players weren’t “driving the bus” on this decision, but it certainly sounds like their feedback was taken into account.
“We’ve gone through exit meetings. I’ve done it at every level. They’re not driving the bus in terms of making my decisions,” Sweeney said. “…They agreed with me, I had used the statement that we left something on the table, and they felt the same way. Young or old, I think there’s a message delivery that I think a new voice will resonate with them.”
Despite rumors of friction between Cassidy and some players, Sweeney said he wouldn’t describe the players as “disgruntled” with Cassidy. Rather, he just came to the conclusion that Cassidy’s messaging was no longer as effective as it needed to be.
“I felt that both the message and how it was being delivered, and more importantly maybe how it was being received, young and old,” he said. “That’s where I referenced both younger and older players taking ownership of it, as I would and I do with where our roster is at and the changes that I ultimately have to make. I think the players felt they were very well prepared, but at times, young and old, they struggled. Sometimes that’s the voice that’s in their head. I think ultimately I had to make a decision that takes us in a different path.”
Sweeney wouldn’t go as far as to say that Cassidy “lost the locker room,” though.
“You don’t go out and get 107 points and win 51 games if players aren’t responding to you. That just doesn’t happen,” Sweeney said. “He’s able to push the buttons that are necessary, but it takes its toll. Over the course of time, it takes its toll. You have to find a way to deliver that message a little differently, or the personnel changes and you cycle it out. That’s a little bit of the cycle of what happens.”
Sweeney also said that Patrice Bergeron’s pending decision to either retire or continue playing did not factor into his decision to fire Cassidy.
“No. I’ve had multiple conversations with Patrice about this organization over the course of my time here. I continue to have them. He has too much respect for Bruce, for me or anybody to make recommendations about the coaches and who he’s gonna play with,” Sweeney said. “Went through the same with Claude [Julien], who he played and had a lot of success with. In my conversations with him yesterday, I did not ask whether this impacts his decision. It’s Bergy’s decision, and his timeline.”
So, if Sweeney is to be believed, this wasn’t some sort of mutiny where players rose up and insisted Cassidy needed to go. But there were indications of a disconnect between coach and players, indications that a new “voice” was needed, and Sweeney decided that was enough to pull the trigger on making a change.