Through 55 games this season, the Bruins have a 26-23-6 record with 58 points. They are one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"First of all, I want to thank Claude and acknowledge the level of success he has achieved as coach of the Boston Bruins," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told reporters after the move. Sweeney also apologized for firing Julien on the day of the New England Patriots' championship parade.
Sweeney also said he expects Cassidy to finish out the season and that he will evaluate a list of candidates, including Cassidy, following the campaign.
"That's part of the process—seeing how players will respond to a different voice," Sweeney told reporters.
However, Bruins winger Brad Marchand told reporters he wouldn't be the player he is without Julien.
On Thursday, Julien issued a statement on his tenure with the Bruins, via DJ Bean of CSNNE.com:
Since the start of 2017, the Bruins have fallen on hard times with 10 losses in 16 contests. However, a three-game winning streak over the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning in late January seemed to curry Julien some favor.
But rumblings of his being on the hot seat had gotten louder in recent weeks, and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara addressed the issue Jan. 21.
"We don't pay attention," Chara told Mike Loftus of the Patriot Ledger. "Claude is our coach, and he will be our coach. We have confidence in him."
Julien recently discussed the state of the Bruins—whom he has coached since the 2007-08 season—without focusing on whether he would be fired, per the Boston Herald (h/t Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports):
At this stage, we're not viewed as a high-skilled team. So we've got to be willing to grind it out—we've got to be willing to do it the dirty way. The dirty way means getting some net-front presence and grinding it out in that area. My job every day is to come in and try to fix things. Until I'm told otherwise, that's what I'm going to keep doing. I (was) mentally prepared to go through those struggles with these guys this year and work through it.
Julien was in his 10th season as Bruins head coach, tying Art Ross for the longest tenure in franchise history. He also had one of the most successful runs of any Bruins head coach with a franchise-record 419 wins, one Stanley Cup title in two trips to the Final and seven playoff appearances.
Things have not been trending in the right direction for the Bruins lately. They missed the playoffs each of the past two campaigns and are now on the fringes of postseason contention.
Cassidy takes over having previously served as head coach for the Washington Capitals from 2002 to 2004, posting a 47-47-9 record.
"I'm not deviating from the plan," Sweeney told reporters regarding the franchise's rebuilding effort.
Sweeney and team president Cam Neely are taking drastic action in the middle of the season, hoping it will yield positive results heading down the stretch. It's a bold step, but the Bruins don't have anything to lose as they seek a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2013-14.