Steve Kasper found his niche as a player by shadowing Wayne Gretzky around the ice. It was a style that Boston Bruins general manager Harry Sinden hoped would work well for his largely starless team.
But no amount of hard work could overcome Boston’s lack of talent this season, as the Bruins missed the playoffs for the first time in 30 years. Kasper was fired Friday after two years of what assistant general manager Mike O’Connell termed “disastrous results.”
O’Connell appeared to be searching for words when he described Kasper as a “capable coach.”
“I’ve said all along, it’s not the coach’s fault, it’s not the players’ fault, it’s not management’s fault. It’s all of us,” O’Connell said.
“He did an all-right job. The fact of the matter is, we didn’t win, and a coach’s mandate is to win. When you fall the way we have so quickly, something definitely was wrong.”
The 35-year-old coach, who has a year left on his contract, was offered a position in the organization but declined. Cap Raeder, the team’s only assistant coach, also was fired.
During his own news conference at a North Shore restaurant, Kasper seemed relieved to be relieved of his duties.
“Fair is really not part of the equation in pro sports,” he said. “I got an opportunity. I gladly accepted the opportunity. I walked in with my eyes wide open and I worked extremely hard at it.
“I’m certainly willing to sit here and take my share of the blame, if that’s what it takes. But I would not be willing to sit here and say that the only reason that team lost is because of Steve Kasper’s coaching.”
Kasper’s replacement will be the 12th coach for the Bruins since their last Stanley Cup championship in 1972. This season was the end of a 29-year run of postseason appearances, longest in pro sports.
“He doesn’t put the skates on, but the blame has to fall somewhere,” forward Steve Heinze said.