BOSTON -- Claude Julien, one of the NHL's most highly regarded coaches, was fired by the Boston Bruins after weeks of rumors regarding his job status.
Assistant coach Bruce Cassidy, who was with some of the current players as head coach in Providence of the AHL, takes over as interim head coach, the team announced. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said that he will compile a list of coaching candidates, and Cassidy will be on that list.
"There are a lot of people who are surprised and disappointed for Claude. He's a Stanley Cup champion," Cassidy said.
Julien's firing comes after weeks of speculation that not everyone was on the same page within the Bruins organization and a coaching change was forthcoming.
Sweeney was asked about announcing the firing on the same day that the Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl victory with a parade in Boston.
"I apologize on a day when obviously New England is going to be excited," he said, adding that he looked at the schedule and realized that the team had two days of practice to get used to a new situation before returning to game action.
The Bruins held the press conference during the parade because "once the decision is made you have no option but to stand up and answer questions accordingly," Sweeney said.
Julien took over the Bruins in June 2007 and in 2011 led the team to its first Stanley Cup since 1972 with a seven-game triumph over Vancouver. He guided the Bruins to a another Cup finals in 2013, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. Julien, in his 10th season with the Bruins, had been the longest-tenured active head coach in the NHL.
Julien's firing leaves Chicago's Joel Quenneville as the longest- tenured coach in the league. He was hired in 2008.
Julien, who won the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year in 2008-09, has a year and a half left on his contract paying him $2.5 million this season and $3 million next year, a source told ESPN.com.
Sweeney inherited Julien when he joined the organization two years ago, and despite speculation that he might hire his own coach, Sweeney decided to keep Julien on. Sweeney said that his relationship with Julien "has really grown and developed over time," but he acknowledged that no two people are going to agree on everything.
Sweeney stressed that he will not sacrifice the future for short-term assets that could help the Bruins sneak into the playoffs.
"I'm not going to be shortsighted," he said, adding that he "absolutely" believes the Bruins can made the playoffs.
Julien's last game behind the bench was Saturday's wild 6-5 loss to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins sit just outside the playoff bubble at 26-23-6, tied with Toronto at 58 points but having played four more games than the Leafs.
Sweeney said that firing Julien was "not an easy decision in any way, shape or form." But he said he thinks "there's an opportunity for a new set of eyes and a new voice for our players."
Cassidy said that the Bruins are "not that far away from winning games."
In his first practice, Cassidy concentrated on increasing the pace in practice, which he hopes will translate to games.
"We're not going to reinvent the wheel system-wise," Cassidy said, adding that the team will tweak its approach in the offensive end.
Julien was also part of Mike Babcock's coaching staff for Canada's victorious teams at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey in September.