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New coach Cassidy says taking Golden Knights job was ‘no-brainer’

Bruce Cassidy
Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP
Bruce Cassidy, new head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, responds to a question during an NHL hockey news conference at City National Arena in Las Vegas, Thursday, June 16, 2022.

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 NHL’s most successful teams since entering the league in 2017, making the playoffs four times, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season.

The bigger challenge for Cassidy was convincing his wife, Julie, and children Shannon and Cole, about the move to Las Vegas.

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“I’m from Canada, she’s from New Jersey, how it would affect the kids?” Cassidy said Thursday during his introductory press conference. “I’m gonna have to convince Cole that he’s gonna have to get on board with the Black and Silver (Raiders) and not the Pats. That’ll be a challenge because, hey, he’s a New England kid, right? I’ll tell him he can have the Red Sox, but you gotta give up the Pats.”

Hockey-wise, though, they’re officially Golden Knights.

Cassidy, 57, coached the Boston Bruins to six straight 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 on 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 in a coach.

That includes a defensively structured team that can move the puck swiftly in the opposite direction, staying in attack mode while keeping opponents on their heels, high-end offensive defensemen who can push the pace, a goaltender-friendly system, and most importantly, successful special teams.

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Bruce Cassidy, right, new head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, responds to a question during an NHL hockey news conference at City National Arena in Las Vegas, Thursday, June 16, 2022. At left is general manager Kelly McCrimmon. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

Boston was a top-five defense in terms of goals allowed this past season. The Bruins boasted both the league’s third-best power play (23.9%) and penalty kill (82.9%) under Cassidy’s watch, since he took over in 2017.

“I think in general I’ve done a good job with certain areas of the game that are important in the National Hockey League,” Cassidy said. “That’s the kind of style of play that I believe I can bring and I’ve tried to get our teams to play. It looks like this group of players will want to play that way and excel in that style.”

The Golden Knights’ 18.4% power-play conversion rate this past season ranked 25th in the league. During former coach Pete DeBoer’s 2 1/2-year tenure, Vegas ranked 21st with its power play (18.6%).

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“I know that it’s been a challenge here at different times in the past,” McCrimmon said. “Bruce has done it again and again and again. I guess that’s what to me is impressive. There’s different teams and different coaches that with the right personnel and the right year you have a really good power play or a real good penalty kill. Or, maybe one is better than the other significantly.

“In Bruce’s case, the penalty kill and the power play consistently have been very, very good for a long period of time.”

Cassidy said knowing the team has quickly gone through two coaches — neither of which lasted longer than 2 1/2 seasons — was not an issue.

Cassidy’s first stint as a head coach was in Washington, where he led the Capitals to a playoff appearance in his first season after compiling a record of 39-29-8 during the 2002-03 regular season. He worked under Knights President of Hockey Operations George McPhee, who was the general manager at the time and fired Cassidy just 25 games into his second season as coach.

“Winning in the postseason. I think when you come close to winning the Cup, it’s always in the back of 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 was acquired in a trade with Montreal for forward Evgenii Dadonov. Weber, 36, did not appear in a game with the Canadiens last season due to multiple lower-body injuries and will remain on injured reserve.