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Golden Knights Analysis

Cassidy: Bottom-Six Is “Not Anywhere Close To Where it Needs To Be”

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Bruce Cassidy, Vegas Golden Knights head coach (Photo- Owen Krepps, Vegas Hockey Now)
Bruce Cassidy, Vegas Golden Knights head coach (Photo- Owen Krepps, Vegas Hockey Now)

New Vegas Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy has a specific philosophy on managing ice time for his players. He stated Tuesday that he is cautious on playing forwards more than 20 minutes a game.

“I don’t know if you should have guys up in the twenties who are forwards. Are you getting maximum value on them if they are playing over 20 (minutes) every night for 82 games?” questioned Cassidy.

If you look back to his time with the Boston Bruins, this mindset lines up with the average 2021-22 time on ice for Brad Marchand (19:15 ATOI), Patrice Bergeron (18:10 ATOI), and David Pastrnak (18:36 ATOI).

A more balanced approach to the lineup seems to be the goal for Cassidy’s Golden Knights. This will be a small adjustment for guys like Jack Eichel, whose career average time on ice is that of 20:15.

“We shouldn’t have anybody in single digits… If this team is functioning as we see it, I think that the fourth line would be closer to 12 (minutes). Because they are going to play against good people, get D-zone starts, and be on the PK (penalty kill),” said Cassidy.

Fourth Line Struggles

With Cassidy’s ice time approach, he sees an increased role for the team’s bottom-six heading into 2022-23. But a rough preseason has halted his plans for the Golden Knight’s depth.

“Right now, our fourth line is not anywhere close to where it needs to be if they are going to contribute major minutes to our team in terms of being a shutdown role or identity line,” Cassidy said Tuesday night after a 3-2 preseason win over the Arizona Coyotes.

The fourth line in question is that of Paul Cotter/William Carrier, Nicolas Roy, and Keegan Kolesar. Carrier, who started the preseason on the fourth line, is now out with a mid-body injury and is not expected to play for the rest of the preseason.

Against the Coyotes on Tuesday night, the Golden Knights lineup was filled to the brim with the potential bottom six forwards. Cotter, Roy, Kolesar, plus Michael Amadio, William Karlsson, Brett Howden, Jonas Rondbjerg, Sakari Manninen, Pavel Dorofeyev, and Jake Leschyshyn all played.

Shutdown Players

The idea of a shutdown line is one that Cassidy mentioned several times in his comments on the team’s bottom six. He’s looking for a line that can play defensively sound against guys like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Nathan Mackinnon as well as players who can play on the penalty kill.

Cassidy hopes to find this with the Howden, Karlsson, Amadio line or the Cotter, Roy, Kolesar line.

“At the end of the day, they have to match up against good players too, which is a big ask. I would like that to be a shared responsibility with Nic Roy’s line. But, like I said, they are a little behind right now. We will put some emphasis on that in the next two (preseason) games,” Cassidy added.

Regarding Roy

Signed to a new contract, the usage of Nicolas Roy in 2022-23 will be an interesting thing to watch. Roy is currently the team’s fourth-line center based on training camp lines. But Cassidy seems torn on where to inject Roy’s skillset into the lineup.

“I think with Nic (Roy), it is going to come down to if we want that fourth-line center that has been there and done that and is rock solid, or if we want to move him up and add some depth to your top-three lines and then try someone else there,” said Cassidy.

“We know what we are going to get out of him (Roy), it’s just where we want to get that out of him, and that is still an ongoing evaluation,” added Cassidy.

Calling on Karlsson

One player that could be the answer to Cassidy’s search for a shutdown player is William Karlsson. The former 43-goal scorer has slowly become a more defensive-minded two-way player in the Golden Knights lineup since being an original misfit in 2017-18.

He’s also a force on the penalty kill and a shorthanded weapon. Nine SHG.

“Karly (William Karlsson) is a 200-foot player, and one of the better ones in the National Hockey League, in my opinion… He’s smart around the net, he’s got quick hands, and he’s got a good shot… He’s one of the hardest working guys on the ice every day, and his detail is terrific.”

“I have zero complaints on how he conducts himself as a pro… I don’t know where he will end up in the offensive column in terms of goals… But he is a very valuable player to our team,” said Cassidy.

Are we seeing Karlsson turn into the Golden Knight’s fourth-line center?

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