One of the most fascinating things to watch in every sport is when an organization makes a decision about their roster. As players age and become more expensive and money runs out, there is a time when you have to pull the plug on a team. If you are a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, that day probably won't come until Sidney Crosby retires. It comes about four years too late and leaves you in a state of disrepair. If you make your living writing or commenting on the Toronto Maple Leafs, you think it's too soon.
As they have fired Bruce Cassidy, the Boston Bruins have decided that the era of Patrice Bergeron is over. The Bs have been through a lot this year, and the offseason hasn't even begun. Both Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk are going to miss a lot of time next season due to surgery, and the retirement status of the entire organization is hanging over them. Brad will need work on his hips. The Bs would lose their top unit if Bergeron retired.
According to Boston Athletic Bruins beat writer Fluto Shinzawa, if this is indeed cliff-diving time for the Bruins, David Pastrnak could go on the trade market, with only one year left before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
What it usually means is a GM is trying to cover his own ass when a coach is fired. Don Sweeney couched Cassidy's dismissal as needed to begin the search for a coach who could work with young players better than the hard-ass Cassidy could. Most of the young players provided by Sweeney have been eaten.
Jake Debrusk, a player so fed up with Cassidy that he demanded a trade he never got last year, was one of the three first round picks of 2015. Debrusk is only a six footer. Since the pick of Jeremy Swayman, there is only one piece that could be considered a foundation piece. He was taken after McAvoy. Sweeney has not produced a single draft.
McAvoy and Pastrnak have become top tier stars under Cassidy's watch. Charlie Coyle was reinvented as a checking center. The Bruins made the playoffs every year under Cassidy and never missed a point. Even though its role shifted from do-it-all to mostly offensive, the Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak line remained the best in hockey. Cassidy was able to move Pastrnak off of it and keep the Bruins in the playoffs. If Sweeney had given a replacement for David, he wouldn't have had to.
It's true that Sweeney has to mortgage some of the future for certain people. He thought he'd get out of depth signings like Craig Smith. When Haula was pushed into a second center role, he proved he was nothing more than a fourth liners. Cassidy was able to get a 100 point season out of this rusted wind instrument. Is he the issue?
It looks like Sweeney is trying to buy himself time to rebuild here instead of leaving with Cassidy. The Bruins may sink if Bergeron retires and the injuries occur. There isn't anything in the horizon that the Bs can identify as being the tentpole of the future.
The Bruins came up just a little short, and the outlook would have been different if a few bounces went their way. The team lost in the Final at home. Had Zdeno Chara's point-shot in double overtime hit the inside of the post instead of the outside, it could have been a sweep for Boston. The Bs have been around the top of the league for over a decade and there are shortages that are small. The Bruins aren't in the same category as the other teams. Despite appearing in the same amount of Finals as the Hawks and Bolts, they only won one Cup.
It is possible that Sweeney is forced to do so as he knows that there is no one to replace him. He may feel that there is no point in stumbling down the table and barely making the playoffs when you are headed in the wrong direction. It's hard to get to heaven when you're down. It might be a good idea to just rip that band-aid and go to the basement.
These moves were just a matter of inches and they were not melancholy to them. There is no escaping the fact that the Bruins left something on the table when they left.