The last two years have seen Felger and Mazz demand the Bruins fire people, so kudos to them for asking the same question now: Who stays and who goes if the Bruins miss the playoffs?
It was a pretty interesting conversation, even if a lot of it didn’t make sense. At any rate, it’s worth asking what will come of the likes of Don Sweeney, Cam Neely and Bruce Cassidy if this all goes to hell and the Bruins fall out of the playoffs for a third straight year.
The million-dollar question would surround Neely, whom the Jacobs obviously love. If he's moved out of his role as president -- either by being fired or being reassigned -- it would mean all bets are off for the other two. So let’s assume he stays for the sake of determining the other guys’ fates.
If I were calling the shots, both Sweeney and Cassidy would be safe, barring especially crazy circumstances.
Start with Sweeney. This isn’t because he’s a great GM right now -- he isn’t -- but because he should have the benefit of the doubt through next season. That’s when we’ll see more of his draft picks, such as Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, at the NHL level. If those guys impress at or near the level of fellow Sweeney pick Brandon Carlo, Sweeney’s plan can be considered the work in progress that many suspect it to be. Plus, that Brad Marchand contract looks sweeter by the day.
The question ownership would need to ask itself is what Sweeney has done to harm the team and how that projects going forward. There are candidates there. He didn’t ace the Dougie Hamilton trade. He gave an aging David Backes what looks to be a bad contract. He gave Matt Beleskey too much money, even if it really isn’t a ton per year. He traded Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes. He bought out Dennis Seidenberg a year too early, which will cost the B’s longer than necessary.
The 2015 deadline deals I don’t put all the way on Sweeney because I have a hard time believing that was completely him insisting on making the playoffs. If he had the eye to the future that he’s claimed is there, he would have known that draft capital was better off being kept.
So for all Sweeney’s shortcomings, Charlie Jacobs would need to diagnose which ones could rear their heads in a costly way before dumping the guy two years in. I’d leave him be for now. There’s nothing worse than an ownership group that doesn’t let its hires implement their plans.
The short answer on Cassidy is that he's worth keeping because he's a good coach who to this point has shown he can get results. Few would have batted an eye if they removed the interim tag last week.
But like Claude Julien before him, Cassidy is a good coach with a not-great roster. This was a team that should have been expected to maybe make the playoffs and maybe miss them. If you're surprised that they're a fringe team, I don't know what to tell you.
The Bruins' goals against per game under Cassidy are nearly equal to what they were under Julien, but that’s because they’re not a very good defensive team. Much like with Julien, I'm of the mind to give him a better team and see what he does with it. Crazy stuff, I know.
Despite having lost three straight, the Bruins are 12-6-0 under Cassidy with nine games left. They’re on pace for 92 points, which projects them to get the second Wild Card spot by two points over the Islanders.
Say the Bruins go .500 (4-4-1) the rest of the way. That would make them them 16-10-1 under Cassidy and give them 91 points, which would still project to get them into the playoffs. They still, to use a horrible cliche, control their own destiny.
So the collapse that many might fear after dropping divisional games in consecutive days still might not even happen. It is interesting, however, to see how quickly the crowd that started engraving names on the Stanley Cup after the coaching change last month is now back to wondering who to fire.