Bruins Front Office Makes Cassidy the Scapegoat for Their Mistakes

Going into the 2022 offseason, it is expected that there are going some changes ahead for the Boston Bruins. The first domino of change fell Monday night when the Bruins announced that general manager (GM) Don Sweeney fired head coach Bruce Cassidy, who had one year remaining on his contract. While the move is a little bit surprising, it should not be a shock after team President Cam Neely hinted at it being a possibility at his end-of-the-season media availability last month after the Black and Gold were eliminated in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven games by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Related: Boston Bruins Fire Bruce Cassidy

In most cases, coaches are the first to take the fall when expectations are not met. However, in this situation, Cassidy is taking the fall for what could be considered bad decisions by the Bruins’ front office over time the last seven seasons.

Bruins 2015 & 2016 Draft Failure

Stop me if you have heard this before, but seven seasons later, if Sweeney had executed a better draft with his first three picks at No.’s 13, 14, and 15 at the 2015 Entry Draft, we might not be in this position. As a reminder, Sweeney selected Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn with his three consecutive picks. The next three picks after the Bruins? Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Thomas Chabot. How helpful would one, two, or even all three have worked out for Cassidy the last couple of seasons? Things would be different and we may be discussing a Stanley Cup championship in 2019. Just maybe.

Don Sweeney Bruins
Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins general manager (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

To compare, Barzal has played in 361 games for the New York Islanders with 91 goals and 220 assists. Connor has played 384 games for the Winnipeg Jets with 178 goals and 166 assists, while Chabot has turned into a tough NHL defenseman for the Ottawa Senators in the 313 games he has played in. Zboril, who just signed a two-year contract extension after having season-ending knee surgery in December, has played in all of 54 NHL games. DeBrusk has been the most successful of the three Boston picks with 92 goals in 321 games, while Senyshyn, like DeBrusk, requested a trade and was sent to the Senators in March after just 14 games wearing the Spoked-B.

Related: Bruins 2015 Draft Failure Will Haunt Them for Years

While the 2015 Draft is going to go down as the biggest miss, and rightfully so, let’s not overlook the 2016 Draft. Sweeney went out of the box to draft Trent Frederic with the 29th overall pick, instead of getting Jordan Kyrou or Alex DeBrincat, who both went in the second round, 35th, and 39th respectively. I’m not saying that either player would be having the same type of career in Boston that they have had with the teams that drafted them, but a quick look at some numbers is kind of scary. Kyrou has had 41 goals and 69 assists the last two seasons with the St. Louis Blues, while DeBrincat has 160 goals and 147 assists in 368 career games for the Chicago Blackhawks.  Frederic meanwhile, has 12 goals, and 23 points in 119 career NHL games.

Looking back at those drafts alone, things could have been a lot different if things had gone another way. There is secondary scoring, top-six depth, middle-six depth, and a defenseman that would have fit in perfectly on the Bruins blueline, all things that Sweeney has tried to address through trades and free agency.

Bruins Free Agent Mistakes

Locking up current young stars on team-friendly contracts has been a strength of Sweeney’s. The same can not be said about free agency. In 2016, Sweeney signed David Backes, 32 years old at the time, to a five-year, $30 million contract. Backes was coming off of his fifth 20-goal season in six seasons, but it was clear his best days were behind him and the Bruins were taking a swing and hoping for more. They didn’t get it. Instead, they got a player who battled injuries, was suspended multiple times, and had 39 goals and 55 assists in 217 games. He was eventually traded to the Anaheim Ducks in a deal that acquired Ondrej Kase.

David Backes Boston Bruins
Former Bruins forward David Backes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Backes was just the beginning of missed free agent signings. John Moore and his five-year, $13.75 million deal followed, before the current roster of misses that include Tomas Nosek, Nick Foligno, and Craig Smith. Also included is bringing back Mike Reilly, who was acquired from the Senators in April of 2021, and his three-year, $9 million contract he signed last summer.

Bruins Trade Deadlines Under Sweeney

There have been some times during his tenure as Bruins GM that Sweeney has hit it out of the park with some deadline moves, while missing on others. Yes, he hit it big with Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar in April of 2021 with the Buffalo Sabres and in 2019 when he acquired Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, which helped fuel a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Then there was getting Hampus Lindholm this season from the Ducks, but there was more that needed to be done this past March and Sweeney decided to stand pat with the roster he had entering trade deadline day.

Charlie Coyle Boston Bruins
Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Sweeney has also had his share of misses with the most notable being Rick Nash in 2018. Ryan Lindgren was part of the package that went back to the New York Rangers, as well as the Bruins’ first-round pick that year. Lindgren is currently playing in the Eastern Conference Final as a member of the Rangers. Nash, unfortunately, had to retire because of concussions after less than a year in Boston. In 23 career games with the Bruins, he had six goals and 11 points. There are other trade misses, Kase (also a victim of concussions), and Nick Ritchie, just to name a few. To acquire Ritchie, Sweeney sent Danton Heinen to the Ducks and Heinen scored a career-high 18 goals this season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Cassidy Takes Fall for Management Mistakes

In six seasons behind the Bruins bench, Cassidy had a record of 245-108-46 and got the Black and Gold to the playoffs each season. They made it to one Stanley Cup Final in 2019 and were always a contender, despite poor drafts, mismanagement of free-agent signings, and some swing and misses at some trade deadlines.

Boston is coming off of a 51-win regular season and 107 points, but in reality, how many other NHL coaches would have won that many games with the roster Cassidy was given by the front office? Not many. The Bruins enter the 2022 offseason with several problems, but Cassidy was not one of them. Sweeney said that the locker room needs a new voice, but in reality, what the locker room needed was better drafting, better free agent signings, and better trade deadline decisions if being a contender every season is their true goal.

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