The Philadelphia Flyers have another candidate for their head coaching vacancy in Bruce Cassidy, as he was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Boston Bruins on June 6. The Bruins are at a crossroads with Patrice Bergeron mulling retirement, rumors surrounding David Pastrnak’s future with the team, and the timetable for the returns of Brad Marchand, Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, and Mike Reilly being uncertain for the start of next season. The only player of the four who has a chance to be ready at the beginning of 2022-23 is Reilly.
Cassidy had success with the Bruins during his five and a half seasons with the franchise, as they made the postseason every year, including losing to the St. Louis Blues in seven games during the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. It appears from general manager (GM) Don Sweeney’s comments that the head coach’s demeanor grew stale with the players and a change was necessary. The Flyers should due their due diligence and interview him for their head coaching position, as he will get hired by another franchise soon during the offseason. Let’s take a look at why they should consider him as their next head coach.
Cassidy Would Improve Flyers’ Defense and Special Teams
Cassidy would focus on bettering the Flyers’ defense and special teams. They had the league’s worst power-play percentage (PP%), ranked 26th in penalty-killing percentage (PK%), and finished 27th in goals against (GA) during the regular season. Their defensive game has been awful the last two seasons, and they need to clean it up in order to improve. Aside from when Cassidy was hired as a replacement for Claude Julien in February 2017, they finished no lower than fourth in the league in goals against per game played (GA/GP) and finished in the top ten in PP% and PK% during four of the five seasons he was the head coach.
Cassidy emphasizes north and south play, along with defensemen moving the puck at a fast pace (from ‘Is It Time For The Boston Bruins To Move On From Bruce Cassidy?, Inside The Rink, 2/18/22). Similar to another candidate for the Flyers’ head coaching vacancy in John Tortorella, the former Bruins coach is tough-minded and truthful with the players he instructs and in his answers to the media’s questions. If GM Chuck Fletcher and Dave Scott, the chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Flyers ownership company, Comcast Spectacor, are considering hiring Tortorella, Cassidy should be in consideration, given their similar coaching styles.
Could the Bruins’ Loss Be the Flyers’ Gain If They Hire Cassidy?
A good portion of the Bruins fanbase is flummoxed with the decision of Sweeney and team president Cam Neely to fire Cassidy. The Cassidy supporters believe he is taking the fall for the shortcomings of the Bruins roster, which are decisions made by the front office. Generally, NHL coaches do not have much of a shelf life, but it is clear that many Bruins fans believe he should still be behind the bench. He anticipated being back with them in 2022-23, as management had told him he would be at the end-of-year meeting. If the organization did indeed make a mistake in dismissing him as their head coach, the Bruins’ loss would be the Flyers’ gain if they hire him.
Frank Seravalli of The Daily Faceoff believes the Flyers are likely to turn their attention to interviewing Cassidy for their opening as head coach and mentions that he led the Bruins to six straight playoff berths and a .635 career points percentage, which ranks him fourth among head coaches in NHL history with a minimum of 500 games (from ‘Sources: Philadelphia Flyers talking to John Tortorella, David Quinn, Jeff Blashill and Bruce Cassidy in coaching search, The Daily Faceoff, 6/9/22). Cassidy is not looking to take any time off from coaching, as he wants to return to being a head coach “as soon as possible.” The 2020 Jack Adams Award winner commented he has spoken with some teams who are looking for a new head coach and did not feel he received unfair treatment in being fired from the Bruins, saying, “I feel I did my job. We can always get better. We can always be better.”
How Would Cassidy Fit With the Flyers?
Cam Atkinson commented at the end of the season on the Flyers’ frustrating season, “I think going into next year, we need to find a way to have some more grit, some more jam, more ‘F you’ to our game, on both sides of the puck, in our crease, defending our goalie and in their crease. I thought we were a pretty soft team this year, in my opinion.” Based on Cassidy’s coaching style of implementing a tough defensive game, he has the opportunity to implement a gritty, tough style if hired to be the Flyers’ head coach. It seems like his philosophy would be welcomed by Atkinson, who was coached by Tortorella when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Assuming the other veteran players in Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Scott Laughton adjust to an outspoken coach like Cassidy, how do younger players in Joel Farabee, Carter Hart, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Oskar Lindblom respond to his coaching style? Will they all respond well to his criticism, which reportedly grew stale among some of the younger players on the Bruins? If Fletcher makes the right roster moves this offseason and makes the proper coaching hire that is a good match for the club, it is not impossible that the Flyers would be a much-improved team over the course of a year.
The firing of Cassidy creates an opportunity for another organization looking for a new head coach to gain a quality candidate whose availability was not expected. Fletcher believes better health and the correct additions during the offseason will help the Flyers be successful next year. They need to hire a down-to-earth, hard-nosed coach like the former Bruins coach because the purpose of his direct approach in his criticism toward the roster is to challenge them and help improve their game. He has familiarity with coaching in a tough environment in Boston, and his direct, candid personality would be welcomed among the Philadelphia fans.
Hiring a coach like Cassidy would provide a frustrated fanbase with some optimism the team is headed in the right direction due to his demanding style and his straightforward personality. If some of the Bruins’ younger players had issues with his critical nature, he can learn from the experience and improve upon his mistakes as a coach. The Flyers roster may respond well to his approach, as other coaches who have been with them before in Dave Hakstol and Alain Vigneault were unable to have any sustained success previously.