During his first media availability as the head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, Bruce Cassidy answered wide-ranging questions from his tenure in Boston to his expectations and vision for Vegas. Even to a contrarian like myself, Cassidy shone bright with an energy unaccustomed to the press conference room at City National Arena. Not only did he have an answer for every question, he seemingly had the best one for everything thrown his way.
Three head coaches in six seasons is not ideal, but Cassidy could be an ideal fit for the Golden Knights.
Cassidy arrives in Vegas with a career .635 NHL win percentage. He compiled a record of 245-108-46 (.672) in his six-year stint with the Boston Bruins (2016-22). He’s a proven winner whose tenure ended as the fall guy for a talented team that missed the playoffs.
High praise from Cassidy’s hiring manager. Kelly McCrimmon may not be the most popular man in Vegas these days, but he is right and if Cassidy pans out like I believe he will, the VGK GM might be able to save face.
Over the past few seasons, the Bruins have been driven by a strong top line and solid defense corps. Known as “the Perfection Line”, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and…Brad Marchand overpowered their opposition at even strength and on the power play. Under Cassidy’s watch, the Golden Knights could easily replicate that production with their high-end forward talent.
With Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Max Pacioretty at his disposal, Cassidy could potentially form a new version of his Perfection Line. It will be on McCrimmon to give him enough depth to support it, but the prospect of it is very enticing.
Between Cassidy’s excitement and answers, the new coach was scoring points left and right with the media and his very visibly pleased GM alike. He didn’t even shy away from mentioning the ever-elusive ultimate goal for each and every franchise, a Stanley Cup victory.
It’s no secret the Golden Knights have been historically lackluster both defensively and on special teams through their previous two coaching regimes. Cassidy wasted no time bringing up both in his introductory presser.
His Bruins teams were adept at keeping the puck out of their own net and as he mentioned, they did that with a vision on attacking and getting out their own end. He described his system as “a goaltender friendly” style of play. These Bruins teams didn’t conservatively sit back, they have been good at “getting into attack mode” which something the Golden Knights struggle with and sorely need. +1 Point to Cassidy.
Regarding the power play, the new bench boss stressed a need for a philosophy change. Two aspects he specifically mentioned were a need to get away from over-reliance on long point shots and the desire to attack from lower spots on the ice, with an emphasis on Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo serving equally as scoring options and facilitators.
In his tenure with the Bruins, the team never finished with a power play percentage below 21%. Improvement upon the 18.4% success rate posted by the Golden Knights last season feels imminent. Cassidy openly admitted to loving the power play and his past playing/coaching power play successes should translate into successes for the VGK. +1 Point to Cassidy
Throughout the press conference, Cassidy effortlessly weaved between savvy answers, insightful recollections and forecasting, and a general sense of charisma we have yet to see from a Golden Knights head coach. His past success and the way he achieved it seem to line up perfectly with the Golden Knights roster and skill set. Although coaching changes are largely window dressing, this Cassidy hire could be huge for this franchise. Just how huge remains to be seen, but seeing his name on the Stanley Cup doesn’t seem so far fetched. +1 Point to Cassidy
This team has the build to mesh well with their new coach. He brings a style and an energy into the room that could have Las Vegas feeling very 2018. There’s no questioning his work ethic and his drive and as of today, this hire seems to be a home run.
+1 Point to Cassidy
If you missed the press conference, you can check it out here.