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What Did Golden Knights Coach Bruce Cassidy Learn While in Boston?



Vegas Golden Knights, Bruce Cassidy

George McPhee, president of hockey operations for the Vegas Golden Knights, gave Bruce Cassidy his first opportunity to coach at the National Hockey League level in 2002 with the Washington Capitals. In Cassidy’s first season, the Capitals finished with 95 points and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Cassidy’s second season lasted just 25 games before McPhee fired him after an 8-16-1 start.

Cassidy was able to reset and catch on with the Boston Bruins. Spending eight seasons at the American Hockey League level, the Bruins took it slow with Cassidy. In 2016 Cassidy got his shot to coach the Boston Bruins.

Cassidy took the Bruins to the NHL playoffs in all six of the seasons he coached the team. The Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019 and lost Game 7 to the St. Louis Blues on home ice. The Bruins lost Game 7 of round one to the top-seed Carolina Hurricanes in Cassidy’s final season.

A plan was in place to have Cassidy coach into the final year of his contract and he already had made a change to his staff in firing assistant coach Kevin Dean. Not long after that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney fired Cassidy.

“I feel I did my job.”

—Cassidy at the time

It seems as though Cassidy had a pretty successful run with the Bruins. Why was he fired?

“I just made a clear decision that I needed a change, and that’s where I arrived.”


President of the Bruins Cam Neely had a corrective conversation with Cassidy about comments he made to the media. Cam [Neely] had come to me once and said, ‘Listen, just be careful because it can be construed the wrong way with players.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And I said, ‘Cam, everything I’ve said out here is said to the player as well, but I understand what you’re saying,’” said Cassidy.

There has been a narrative that Cassidy’s handling of younger players may have played a part in his firing.

“I don’t know (if I did) a lot. I always disliked that narrative.”

—Cassidy on the narrative of issues with younger players

A number of players went on to have very successful seasons at the NHL level that Cassidy coached at the AHL level. Torey Krug, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand are just a few.

Cassidy had a lot of success during his time in Boston and had his issues. A coach is not usually fired after making the playoffs for six straight seasons and getting within one win of a Stanley Cup in that run.

What did Cassidy learn from his time in Boston and how did he apply it in Vegas?

Cassidy gives great press conferences. Honest and thorough while making sure to look each member of the media in the eye while giving an answer. However, he did dial things back a bit. Cassidy was more careful in his press conferences to avoid calling players out.

On Dec. 19, 2019 the Golden Knights hosted the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres defeated the Golden Knights 3-2. Jeff Skinner scored the first goal. After the game, Cassidy eluded to the first goal by saying, “A player’s stick was facing the wrong zone,” which allowed a pass to go across the slot. Cassidy did not name the player. The player in question ended up being Jonathan Marchessault.

Cassidy came up with the idea for a player who scores a hat trick for the Golden Knights to collect a hat off the ice to be placed somewhere in the team’s locker room. It would be a good way to commemorate the player’s achievement and make for a nice conversation piece down the road.

The Golden Knights faced more than their fair share of injuries last season. There were a couple rough months that saw the team dip in the standings. You never heard of things coming unraveled in the locker room. Cassidy kept the team in a good place for the entire season and playoffs.

It is fair to assume Cassidy’s experience in Boston helped to keep the peace in Vegas and a big part as to why he was able to get his name on the Stanley Cup.

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