He doesn’t want to call it a ‘revenge tour’ outright, but new Vegas Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy certainly sounds like a man who feels that he has something to prove to the men who fired him.
“I do, I do,” Cassidy, introduced Thursday as the new head coach of the league’s second-newest franchise, said when asked if he has something to prove with his new gig. “I got let go. So, this is not some sort of revenge tour or anything like that. It’s just that I want to prove to myself, more importantly, that I’m capable of doing the job and winning [and] winning in the postseason. So yeah, there’s a little bit of that.
“It’s not going to consume me every day by any means. I think when you come close to winning the Cup, it’s always in the back of your mind that you want to finish the job, and I definitely have that mindset.”
Hired seven days and 22 hours after the Cam Neely-Don Sweeney braintrust — and with the blessing (or perhaps command) from ownership — decided that the team needed a new voice behind the bench, Cassidy knew sitting around and pouting about getting fired for the only team he ever wanted to represent wasn’t going to be the play.
“When I got the news, I wanted to go right back to work,” Cassidy admitted. “I was going to try to pursue opportunities right away, and I just got tired of being out of work.”
And it didn’t take long for the Knights to come calling.
Beginning their search with a short list of names and a long timeframe at their disposal, things changed for the Knights’ search when the Bruins fired Cassidy. Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon admitted that he didn’t think that Cassidy would be available (read as: didn’t think the Bruins would have fired him after a 107-point campaign), and hinted that he skyrocketed to the top of their wish list once the B’s made their call some 2,700 miles away.
It was the right call at the right time for the 57-year-old Cassidy.
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“The last eight days.. obviously, when you get let go, there’s a lot of emotions that go into it. You sort of lick your wounds, then console your children, and then the phone started ringing for me,” Cassidy said. “I was very flattered that people valued how I did my job. And talking to Kelly during the process, almost on a daily process, I just felt this was going to be a great fit for me.
“I knew hockey-wise it was a no-brainer for me.”
Cassidy wasn’t going to throw any devastating haymakers at the Bruins in his Vegas intro, and understandably so because nobody wants to eat sour grapes on a first date, but there were some things that stuck out.
Cassidy stood by what he said last week when it came to player accountability, saying that you don’t have a team if you don’t have accountability. He also talked about his messaging style, and seemed to stand by his approach, saying that he’s pretty good at assessing how a player (young or old) needs to be handled. Those seemed to be issues that the Bruins had when it came to bringing Cassidy back for another round with the Bruins.
He also seemed to praise the Golden Knights’ roster construct, and with specific mentions to their finishing prowess and a backend that can push the pace offensively. Both of those team attributes were things that Cassidy frequently lamented not having enough of during his time with the Bruins, specifically over the last three years on the way to playoff steps backwards.
Cassidy even had a bit of a chirp when it came to the Knights’ head coaching impatience (Cassidy will be the franchise’s third coach in four years), quipping, “I thought I did a good job in Boston, too, and here I am, so it’s part of the business.”
“What I see from Vegas is a lot of guys that can finish and I see guys who have been through playoff series who know what it takes to get there,” Cassidy offered. “I’ve seen Alec [Martinez] and [Alex Pietrangelo] win a Stanley Cup. I saw Petro a little too closely, to be quite honest with you.”
A win-now team with a loaded cast beyond the experience of Martinez and Pietrangelo, Cassidy sees an awful lot to work with when it comes to this Vegas squad. There’s skillful wingers such as Jonathan Marchessault, Mark Stone, and Max Pacioretty, as well as centers like Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, and Chandler Stephenson. The Knights will also have a healthy Robin Lehner in net when the puck drops on the 2022-23 season.
“Everything aligned perfectly, I thought, with the roster,” Cassidy noted.
And in a city that’s Cup or bust, Cassidy, whose contract is believed to be for five years, will lean on his Boston experience in pursuit of the proper ‘not a revenge tour (but totally a revenge tour)’ ending.
“Previous market was an Original Six [and] lots of pressure, so that to me is a good thing. You want to be relevant and you want expectations. We’re here to fulfill them,” Cassidy said. “I want my name on the Stanley Cup. And I believe this team has the capability to do that.”