Former Boston Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy has officially been named the third head coach in Vegas Golden Knights history, and fans probably have a lot of questions.
What’s he like? Why did the Bruins fire him? What can we expect from the Golden Knights with Cassidy behind the bench?
To learn more about Cassidy, we reached out to Dan Ryan (@bruinshockeynow) from Stanley Cup of Chowder for insight on what the Knights are getting in their new bench boss.
Why did the Bruins fire Bruce Cassidy?
No one really knows. There are plenty of “I heards” and “People told me’s” about him losing the locker room, players hated him, etc. However, there’s really no concrete evidence of that, and those rumblings really only came out after he got fired, so take it with a grain of salt. (Supposedly that’s what happened when he got fired from his first gig, so maybe people are just reading into it too much? Hard to say.)
The main reasons given by management were that the “message” wasn’t resonating anymore and the team needed a new voice. Translation: a shake-up for a shake-up’s sake. Management also took Cassidy to task for being too harsh on young players, which is debatable.
My guess is that Sweeney and Neely wanted a fall guy before their own jobs are on the line, so Cassidy was that fall guy.
How are Bruins fans reacting to the firing of Cassidy?
The universal reaction was a mixture of shock and anger. No one was happy with how the season ended, but few blamed the coach. If they had given Cassidy next season and he started slowly, then I think people would have been more understanding.
But to fire a coach after losing in seven games to a favored opponent seemed harsh, all things considered.
Some are more zen about it, saying “Hey, coaches get fired all the time. Not the end of the world.” But most aren’t happy about it.
What makes Cassidy such a good coach?
His defensive structure is very sound. It certainly didn’t hurt that the Bruins had outstanding three-zone players like Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron at his disposal, but the system Cassidy had in place certainly worked.
For the most part, his teams were responsible, three-zone teams that could beat you a number of ways. The Bruins rarely beat themselves under Cassidy (though that started to slip last year, to be fair).
How much of that comes down to Cassidy vs. the players remains to be seen.
What’s Cassidy like in the locker room?
Depends on what you believe, I guess. The only guy who went on record about it was Patrice Bergeron, who said the idea that Cassidy was hated or that he lost the locker room (paraphrasing) wasn’t worth his time.
However, as mentioned above, some swear that the players hated Cassidy, mostly because he was (to oversimplify it) too mean or too hard on players. He did have a habit of calling guys out after games or in press conferences, but he always said that if he aired something out publicly, the player had already heard about it privately.
Jake DeBrusk was a target of those words, and he asked to be traded — draw your own conclusions. He’d also be very blunt when, for example, his goalie had a bad night.
I can see why some might make the connection, but these guys are professional athletes. I have a very, very hard time believing Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, etc. were affected by criticism from their coach.
For the bloggers and fans, Cassidy is great with the media — honest quotes, very candid, very personable. He’s not one of those old-school gruff guys. The media here loved him, and with good reason.
Is there anything else Golden Knights fans should know about Cassidy?
I think you’re getting a good coach. It’ll be interesting to see how Cassidy gels with the high-end talent in Vegas — it’s not like he’s walking into a rebuild.
He noted in his farewell press conference that he’d learn from some of the criticism he received from his bosses (namely being too hard on young players), and it’s clear that he learned from his first head coaching experience.
If he’s willing to evolve, you have to think he can take what was good about his Boston tenure and add in some new knowledge to move things forward.
There’s always a chance he was just a perfect fit in Boston (coached in the system in the minors) and will crash and burn elsewhere, but that would surprise me.
Overall, Vegas fans should be excited about this hire. While you can’t give all of the credit (or blame) to the coach, his record in Boston speaks for itself.
A big thank you to Dan for the quality insight. Be sure to follow Dan on Twitter (@bruinshockeynow), as well as Stanley Cup of Chowder (@cupofchowdah) for more news and notes on the Bruins.