Ask Brandon Carlo about Bruce Cassidy. Ask Jake DeBrusk about his former coach. Ask Jack Studnicka how his development as a professional hockey player progressed with Bruce Cassidy as his coach. Ask any members of Cassidy’s old club about their former mentor, and you will get some interesting stories and insight into the new head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Cassidy has been a successful head coach since becoming the head man of the Boston Bruins after a tumultuous first stint with the Washington Capitals from 2002-04. The Capitals made the playoffs in Cassidy’s first season as coach, but the following season ended for the former first-round pick after just 28 games. Players complained about Cassidy’s professionalism and admitted they lacked respect for their coach. Cassidy learned from that failed experience and led Boston to the postseason in his six seasons with the Bruins.
The current Golden Knights’ coach has worked on past personal issues and was able to command respect from the locker room, but he has never lost his tell-it-like-it-is demeanor. The Bruins fired Cassidy rather surprisingly last off-season partly due to his treatment of younger players. Carlo, DeBrusk, Studnicka, and other Bruins, such as Jakub Zboril, grew weary of Cassidy’s constant criticism and Team President Cam Neely finally realized a change needed to be made. The shelf life of an NHL head coach can be shorter than you think, and it was time for Cassidy to move on. Vegas wasted no time giving the former Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman a five-year deal. But even after the fallout of last season, Cassidy remains the same candid, demanding coach.
In just the second game of the season, a 1-0 win over the lowly Blackhawks, Cassidy made his first disciplinary decision as Golden Knights’ coach by benching newly acquired winger Phil Kessel. The former Arizona Coyotes’ Forward played just 12:37 of ice time and was dropped to the third line during the game. Two things Cassidy has always preached are to be hard to play against and not be a “passenger” on the ice. In the 1,206th game of Kessel’s career, Cassidy showed that not just the young players need to be held accountable.
The Boston media enjoyed covering Cassidy because of his candor and honesty when evaluating players. If something was on the ice he didn’t like, Cassidy would tell the media and not “sugarcoat” the information. In Thursday night’s win, the Vegas coach was “disappointed” in the team’s poor start. “We didn’t come out and play on our toes, which is disappointing,” said Cassidy. “It’s my job to prepare the team to play, and obviously, I don’t think we’re anywhere near our potential.”
Vegas missed the postseason for the first time in team history in 2021-22 and will need to compete in a challenging Pacific Division to reach the playoffs again. Cassidy was brought in to improve the team’s defensive structure, but most importantly, to hold players accountable and give honest assessments of their performances. Despite starting the season 2-0, Bruce Cassidy is already showing the team, the fan base, and the media that he hasn’t changed what has made him a successful NHL head coach.