Even if Bruce Cassidy wins a Cup, Bruins were still right to fire him

I didn't hear anyone pining for Bruce Cassidy when the Bruins roared to the best record in NHL history. Nor did his name surface when Jake DeBrusk finally started playing like someone who wanted to be here, or Linus Ullmark emerged as a Vezina favorite, or Hampus Lindholm made a play for the Norris Trophy.

Cassidy was light years from anyone's mind when the B's opened a 3-1 lead on the Panthers in the first round, at least until disaster struck. Florida won three straight elimination games, including two in overtime, and the Bruins found themselves dispersing for the summer while head coach Jim Montgomery bemoaned the missteps that cost them the series.

Meanwhile, out in Las Vegas, Cassidy's Golden Knights have blitzed through the playoffs, where they now find themselves two wins from a Stanley Cup against those same Panthers.

Talk about putting a storyline on a platter. The juxtaposition of Cassidy's rise and Montgomery's demise makes it all too easy for revisionist historians to declare the Bruins SCREWED UP ROYALLY when they changed coaches.

To that lazy counterfactualism I have but one word: please.

Even great coaches have a shelf life, let alone merely good ones like Cassidy. And even if the evidence is mostly circumstantial, it all pointed to the Bruins needing a new voice behind the bench that the players wanted to actually, you know, play for. That Cassidy is winning somewhere else changes nothing.

It's not as if his B's had been some kind of perennial postseason juggernaut. After blowing the 2019 Cup Final to the eighth-seeded Blues with a no-show in Game 7 at home, the Bruins bowed out in the second round twice and then the first round in 2022.

Cassidy's final season was a rollercoaster, from an awful start, to a COVID outbreak, to a big finish that sent the Bruins into the playoffs with some momentum, where the Hurricanes bounced them in seven games without either team winning a road game.

It looked like Cassidy would return until general manager Don Sweeney had a change of heart exactly one year ago Tuesday and made the drive to Cassidy's suburban Boston home to inform him he wouldn't return.

Speculation immediately focused on Cassidy's failure to connect with or develop the roster's younger players. All parties involved denied it, but come on. Even a Zamboni could recognize the B's didn't love playing for their hard-assed coach, who acknowledged he could be too critical in public.

Rail about spoiled athletes chafing at the truth all you want, but Cassidy had run his course in Boston and it was time for a change. In stepped Montgomery and out came a freer-flowing style as the Bruins empowered their defensemen to carry the puck and delivered a more entertaining brand of hockey.

Along the way, the young guys thrived. David Pastrňák became only the second player in franchise history to record 60 goals. DeBrusk rescinded his trade demands and potted 27 goals in only 64 games. Defenseman Brandon Carlo and center Trent Frederic delivered their best seasons. While the veteran Ullmark excelled as the starter, young backup Jeremy Swayman went 24-6.

Montgomery oversaw all of it, and if you believe that the B's would've produced even remotely similar results under Cassidy – especially with defenseman Charlie McAvoy and winger Brad Marchand recovering from major offseason surgery – then I would like to sell you that aforementioned Zamboni.

There's no shame in losing a locker room. Athletes can only tune in for so long before tuning out. Terry Francona was cooked by the end of his final Red Sox season in 2011, but two years later he was Manager of the Year with Cleveland. Pete Carroll got overrun with the Patriots after replacing the legendary Bill Parcells, but he went on to win two national titles at USC and a Super Bowl with the Seahawks. Bill Fitch took the Celtics to the first championship of the Larry Bird era before his abrasiveness forced a change. He piloted the Rockets to the 1986 Finals just three years later.

At no point did anyone suggest the Red Sox, Patriots, or Celtics had whiffed. They simply moved on to the next guy, and all three won titles within two years.

Montgomery blew his chance to join that list with some postseason coaching decisions that will rob him of sleep all summer, but he'll get another crack at it next season. In the meantime, he may have to wince and watch his predecessor raise Lord Stanley's Cup, but Cassidy's success changes nothing.

The Bruins needed a new voice, and if you didn't miss Cassidy two months ago, you can't suddenly decide you miss him now.