What's next for the Boston Bruins, Bruce Cassidy after firing?

The Boston Bruins fired head coach Bruce Cassidy after six seasons Monday in a surprising move given his history of success with the club.

There are now six head-coach openings around the NHL -- the Bruins join the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets -- along with three clubs making a decision on their interim coach from 2021-22.

Cassidy managed to get the Bruins into the playoffs in all six seasons he coached them, starting in 2016-17 when he took over from Claude Julien with 27 games remaining.

That included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, where they lost to the St. Louis Blues in seven games, then two second-round losses, then a seven-game, first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes this postseason. In the past four seasons, only the Tampa Bay Lightning (.698) had a higher regular-season points percentage than the Bruins (.667).

In other words, Bruce Cassidy's firing came as a shock to many in the hockey world ... except those who heard team president Cam Neely keep Cassidy's status in limbo after the season.

While Neely endorsed the return of GM Don Sweeney, he didn't do the same with Cassidy.

"I think we have to look at making some changes as far as how we play and the way we do some of the things," Neely said at the time. "I think Bruce is a fantastic coach.

He's brought a lot of success to this organization. I like him as a coach. So we'll see where it goes. I do thing we need to make some changes, and Bruce alluded to that. We'll see where that goes." For Cassidy, it went out the exit door.

Why fire him now? Perhaps the Bruins just didn't want to delay the inevitable. Cassidy had one more year left on his contract. The Bruins were going to start next season with a significantly depleted lineup: Winger Brad Marchand and defensemen Charlie McAvoy, Mike Reilly and Matt Grzelcyk all had offseason surgeries with recovery times cutting into the 2022-23 season.

Factor in Patrice Bergeron's uncertain status for next season, and the Bruins could have epically stumbled out of the gate in Cassidy's lame-duck season. That doesn't really answer the primary question, which is "Why fire Bruce Cassidy?" 

There are a number of theories bouncing around the Boston hockey sphere. Was his relationship with the players strained after six years, manifesting in conflicts like the one that led Jake DeBrusk to seek a trade? Did enough players speak up during exit interviews to hasten their coach's exit?