The Golden Knights’ nearly monthlong search for a coach ended with someone who wasn’t even available when it began.
The Knights on Tuesday named Bruce Cassidy their third coach since joining the NHL in 2017. He replaces Pete DeBoer, who was fired May 16 after the team missed the playoffs for the first time.
Terms of the contract were not available. Cassidy’s introductory news conference will be at 10 am Thursday.
Cassidy, 57, coached the Boston Bruins for parts of the past six seasons before being fired June 6. The Bruins were 245-108-46 (.672 points percentage) in his tenure and never missed the playoffs. He led them to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final against Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and the St. Louis Blues, which Boston lost in seven games.
Cassidy won the Jack Adams Award for the NHL’s best coach the following season when the Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy.
That recent track record meant the Ottawa, Ontario, native was unemployed for only eight days despite the coaching market being full of experienced names such as Barry Trotz, John Tortorella, Rick Tocchet and Paul Maurice.
“The Golden Knights are very pleased to have Bruce come in to coach our team,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “His success in Boston over six years is extremely impressive. His teams have had a clear identity, having been among the very best in the NHL in terms of goals for, goals against, goal differential and special teams.”
The Knights were the first club to hire a coach from outside their organization this offseason. Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia and Winnipeg are still searching, and Chicago, Edmonton and Florida have interim coaches.
“I am excited to join an organization that shares my commitment to winning and can’t wait to get to work with the talent that has been assembled in Vegas,” Cassidy said. “It’s been impressive to watch the city embrace the Golden Knights from afar.”
Cassidy previously worked for Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee in Washington. He coached the Capitals with McPhee as his general manager for the 2002-03 season and for 28 games in the 2003-04 season before he was fired. He went 47-47-7 with nine ties.
Cassidy spent several years reclimbing the coaching ladder until getting the opportunity in Boston. He was an assistant in Chicago and then coached in the Ontario Hockey League and American Hockey League before being put behind an NHL bench again. He was promoted from coach of the Providence Bruins to an assistant in 2016, then was named Boston’s interim coach when Stanley Cup-winning coach Claude Julien was fired Feb. 7, 2017.
Cassidy then got the full-time job, and during his tenure as coach, the Bruins ranked second in points percentage, second in wins, 10th in goals per game, first in goals against per game, third on the power play and third on the penalty kill. Boston advanced past the first round of the playoffs four times.
The Bruins didn’t reach the second round this season, losing their first series to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games. Cassidy was fired 23 days later. General manager Don Sweeney said Cassidy was “terrific,” but thought the way his message was being heard fell short after 472 regular-season and playoff games.
“He’s able to push the buttons that are necessary,” Sweeney said June 7. “But it takes its toll. Over the course of time, it takes its toll.”
Cassidy told Boston media members Thursday that he already had talked to several teams and hoped to coach again as soon as possible. He said he thought after the Bruins’ exit meetings that his job was “status quo” for next season until Sweeney came to his house and fired him, according to NHL.com.
“I wanted to come back and coach the Bruins,” Cassidy said. “Raw deal? I don’t know about that. I felt I did my job.”
Cassidy will be tasked with returning the Knights to Stanley Cup contention, as his predecessors set a high bar.
DeBoer was 98-50-12 (.650 percentage points) and led the Knights to back-to-back semifinal appearances in his first two seasons. Gerard Gallant was 118-75-20 (.601 percentage points) and won the Jack Adams Award while steering the team to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
Cassidy played professional hockey from 1983 to 1997. A defenseman, he was taken in the first round of the 1983 NHL draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. He appeared in 36 NHL games, all with Chicago, and also played in the American Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and International Hockey League, as well as in Germany and Italy.
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