Bruce Cassidy is the third coach of 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 teams in the NHL since entering the league in 2017, making the playoffs four times, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals 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, she’s from New Jersey, how would that affect the kids?” Cassidy said Thursday during his introductory press conference. “I’m going to have to convince Cole that he’s going to have to come on board with the Black and Silver (Raiders) and not the Pats. It’ll be a challenge because, hey, he’s a kid from New England, right? I’ll tell him he can have the Red Sox, but you have to ditch the Pats.
On the hockey side, however, they are officially the Golden Knights.
Cassidy, 57, coached the Boston Bruins to six consecutive playoff appearances after replacing Claude Julien in the final months of the 2016-17 campaign. He had a 245-108-46 record with Boston when he was fired June 6, a month after the Bruins lost a seven-game first-round series to Carolina.
Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Thursday that Cassidy embodies the traits the franchise has always expected of a coach.
This includes a defensively structured team that can move the puck quickly in the opposite direction, stay in attack mode while keeping opponents on their heels, high-end offensive defensemen who can pick up the pace, a goalie-friendly system and, above all, successful special teams.
Boston was one of the top five defenses in goals against last season. The Bruins have posted both the third-best power play in the league (23.9%) and the penalty kill (82.9%) under Cassidy since taking over in 2017.
“I think in general I did a good job in some areas of the game that are important in the National Hockey League,” Cassidy said. “That’s the kind of style of play I think I can bring and I tried to get our teams to play. It seems that this group of players will want to play this way and excel in this style.
The Golden Knights’ 18.4 percent power-play conversion rate last season ranked 25th in the league. During former coach Pete DeBoer’s 2½ year tenure, Vegas ranked 21st in power play (18.6%).
“I know it’s been a challenge here at different times in the past,” McCrimmon said. “Bruce has done it over and over and over again. I guess that’s what impresses me. There are different teams and different coaches who, with the right personnel and the right year, you have a very good game of power or a very good shorthandedness.Or, maybe one is significantly better than the other.
“In Bruce’s case, the penalty kill and the power play have always been very, very good for a long time.”
Cassidy said knowing the team had quickly gone through two coaches — neither of whom had lasted more than 2 1/2 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 going 39-29-8 on the season. regular 2002-03. He worked under Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee, who was general manager at the time and fired Cassidy just 25 games into his second season as coach.
“Winning in the playoffs. I think when you’re about to win the Cup it’s always on your mind and you want to finish the job and definitely have that mindset,” he said. “I thought I did a good job in Boston – and here I am.
“I want my name on the Stanley Cup…and I believe this team has the ability to do that.”
Vegas also announced that veteran defenseman Shea Weber had been acquired in a trade with Montreal for forward Evgenii Dadonov. Weber, 36, sat out a game with the Canadiens last season due to multiple lower-body injuries and will remain on the injured list.
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