LAS VEGAS – Bruce Cassidy is the third coach for the Vegas Golden Knights in the franchise’s sixth year, and he said the decision was a “no-brainer” from a hockey perspective.
After all, Vegas has been one of the most successful NHL teams since entering the league in 2017, making the playoffs four times, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season.
Cassidy’s biggest challenge was convincing his wife Julie and children Shannon and Cole to move to Las Vegas.
“I’m from Canada, and she’s from New Jersey, how will this affect the kids?” Cassidy said Thursday during his inaugural press conference. “I’m going to have to convince Cole that he’s going to have to join up with the Black and Silver[Raiders]and not the Bats. That’s going to be a challenge because, hey, he’s a New England kid, right? I’m going to tell him he can get the Red Sox, but you have to give up on the Bats.”
In hockey terms, though, they’re officially the Golden Knights.
Cassidy, 57, coached the Boston Bruins in six straight playoff games after replacing Claude Julien in the closing months of the 2016-17 season. He had a 245-108-46 record with Boston when he was fired on June 6, a month after the Bruins lost a seven-game series in the first round to the Carolinas.
Vegas General Manager Kelly McCremon said Thursday that Cassidy embodies the traits that franchise has long expected in any coach.
This includes an organized defensive team that can quickly move the disc in the opposite direction, staying on offense while keeping opponents in their wake, sophisticated offensive defensive men who can push speed, a goalkeeper-friendly system, and most importantly, successful special teams.
Boston was one of the top five defenses in terms of goals allowed last season. The Bruins have boasted the league’s third best power game (23.9%) and a penalty kick (82.9%) under Cassidy, since taking over in 2017.
“I think overall I’ve done well in certain areas of the game that are important in the National Hockey League,” Cassidy said. “That’s the kind of playing style I think I can bring and I’ve tried to convince our teams to play. It looks like this group of players are going to want to play that way and excel in that way.”
The Golden Knights’ Power-play conversion rate of 18.4% this past season ranked them 25th in the league. During former coach Pete Debor’s two-and-a-half year stint, Vegas ranked 21st in her strong play (18.6%).
“I know it’s been a challenge here at various times in the past,” McCremon said. “Bruce has done it over and over again. I think that’s what impresses me. There are different teams and different coaches with the right people and the right year you have really good strength or a good penalty. Or, maybe one is significantly better than the other.”
“In Bruce’s case, the penalty kick and power play have always been very, very good for a long period of time.”
Cassidy said that knowing the team quickly went through two coaches—neither of whom lasted more than two and a half seasons—wasn’t a problem.
Cassidy’s first stint as head coach was in Washington, where he led the Capitals to a playoff appearance in his first season after amassing a record 39-29-8 during the 2002-03 regular season. He worked under Knights head of hockey operations George McPhee, who was the general manager at the time and fired Cassidy only 25 games in his second season as coach.
“Winning in the post-season. I think when you get close to winning the cup it’s always in the back of your mind and you want to finish the job and you definitely have that mentality,” he said. “I thought I did a good job in Boston – and here I am.
“I want my name in the Stanley Cup… and I think this team has the potential to do that.”
Vegas also announced that the veteran defender Shea Weber Acquired in trade with Montreal for the term Evgeny Dadunov. Webber, 36, did not appear in a game with the Canadians last season due to multiple lower body injuries and will remain a reserve for injury.