Bruce Cassidy said he saw his phone light up less than 72 hours after he was fired from coaching the Boston Bruins.
Cassidy said that “a number of teams” in the NHL have been in contact with him since he was told on Monday that the Bruins had opted out of the final year of his contract.
Which works well, because Cassidy said he wants to return to training in the NHL as soon as possible.
“At the end of the day, do I still want it [in Boston]? Sure, Cassidy said on Thursday “Do I want to train in this league? Yes, ASAP. Because that’s what I do. I’m a coach and I love doing it.”
Cassidy has coached the Bruins for the past six seasons and was promoted from assistant when Claude Julien was fired on February 7, 2017. Cassidy, who had 12 years between major coaching jobs in the NHL (Washington Capitals 2002-04), was 245-108-46 with Boston and was awarded the Jack Adams Award in 2019-20 voted as the best coach in the NHL. The Bruins qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of their six seasons, including advancing to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, when they lost to the St. Louis Blues.
The 57-year-old is 292-155-53 with nine encounters in 509 games in eight NHL seasons with the Bruins and Capitals.
“We hope that another opportunity will arise because of the work we’ve done here,” Cassidy said. “Great memories. Part of the job – learn from it and be better next time.”
That next time can come quickly.
“In terms of teams, I won’t go into with them, but I’ve spoken to a number of teams,” Cassidy said. “I want to go back to work. I hope it’s a really good fit, and the best fit possible.”
There are currently six coaching positions open in the NHL, with the Bruins, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets in the market for a coach. The Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers could be as well, as both have used a caretaker coach this season (Derek King, Blackhawks; Andrew Brunet, Panthers). Of those slots, Vegas is the most interesting, but if the Panthers choose not to keep Brunette, this job becomes the best out there.
Bruins’ decision came as a surprise to Cassidy. General Manager Don Sweeney went to Cassidy’s house on Monday and told him the news, something Sweeney admitted earlier this week that Cassidy did not take well.
It was partly because Cassidy had been under the impression since the team’s exit meetings, after the Bruins (51-26-5) lost in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the Eastern Conference, that his job was the “status quo” for 2022-23.
“I wanted to get back to coaching the Bruins,” Cassidy said. “It was a privilege and an honor. Fourteen years here in various positions in the organization. Basically Bruins tattooed me. …a raw deal? I don’t know anything about it. I felt like I did my job.”
However, the Bruins chose to go in a different direction.
“I felt that both the message and how it was delivered, and most importantly, how it was received” were where Cassidy failed, Sweeney said on Tuesday. “I think the players felt they were very well prepared, but sometimes, young and old, they struggled. And sometimes it’s that voice in their heads.
“Ultimately I had to make a decision that would take us down a different path.”
Cassidy said he is open to criticism from the organization because it chose to make a change. He’s been open about how much he learned between his first chance as a head coach with the Capitals, and worked his way back into the position with the Ontario Hockey League and the American Hockey League. He has worked for Bruins for 14 years.
“I believe in myself when it comes to coaching youth,” Cassidy said. “And in the next challenge, I’ll make sure I’m aware of the messages. Because I respect Donnie when he talks about what you need to do better. He’s been in the game for a long time.
“So this is something I have to take with me to my next job. But I still come back to account because I don’t think you have much of a team if the players are not held accountable.”
Cassidy detailed a list of ways he could improve as a coach, from keeping pace with the shifts of the game, and whether he might need to switch to a more open style of play, to communicating with players on a more consistent basis, something he tried to do without crowding his players, with Ensure that they know them on a personal level.
Asked if next time it might resemble the Bruins, Cassidy said, “I hope so.”
Though, he admitted that he can’t pick the players. And he can’t bring the center and the leader Patrice Bergeron with him.
Ultimately, his experience with the Bruins has been transformative, said Cassidy, and he will clearly hit his next opportunity.
“I knew I could be a good coach in the National Hockey League,” he said.