The Vegas Golden Knights have a brand new head coach behind the bench with Bruce Cassidy coming in after a stint with the Boston Bruins. Cassidy replaces Peter DeBoer, who was fired as Golden Knights head coach on May 16. He is the third head coach in what is now the sixth season of the franchise since joining the NHL in the 2017-18 season.
This is a part of a series of profile features on the complete Golden Knights roster heading into the 2022-23 season.
Cassidy has two previous head coaching stints in the NHL. The first stint was with the Washington Capitals from 2002 until 2004. And the most recent one with the Bruins from 2016 until the end of last season. Overall, Cassidy has a career mark of 255 wins, 155 loses, nine ties and 53 overtime losses. Much of Cassidy’s coaching resume comes in the minor and junior league systems as he has coached six different teams outside of Boston and Washington since 1996.
The playing career of Bruce Cassidy
In order to examine the roots of Bruce Cassidy, and why the Golden Knights see him as a solid fit for the franchise, taking a look at his playing career might be a step in the right direction. The Ottawa, Ontario native was drafted 18th overall by the Chicago Black Hawks in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to being drafted, Cassidy played in the Ontario Hockey League for the Ottawa 67’s in the 1982-83 season. With the 67’s, the defenseman played in 70 games picking up 111 total points (25 goals, 86 assists) and 33 penalty minutes.
On March 11, 1984 in Los Angeles against the Kings, the 18-year old would make his NHL debut and managed to get just one shot on goal. Much of Cassidy’s playing career was spent in the minors in the Chicago Black Hawks system. Over a span of six seasons with the club, he would appear in 36 NHL games. His most productive season came during the 1986-87 season where he would appear in 21 games picking up 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists).
Cassidy’s playing career was limited due to having three knee surgeries from 1984 until 1988 including a complete rebuild of his ACL. In the minors, Cassidy played with four teams in the American Hockey League (Nova Scotia Oilers) and International Hockey League (Saginaw Generals, Saginaw Hawks and Indianapolis Ice). After winning the Turner Cup with Indianapolis in 1990, Cassidy would go overseas to play in the Italian Hockey League with HC Alleghe for five seasons and with ESV Kaufbeuren in Germany for one season.
After playing in Germany, he would then return to the Blackhawks organization to play three additional seasons with the Indianapolis Ice. Ten games into his final stint with Indianapolis, Cassidy would suddenly retire as a player to take over as the new head coach of the Jacksonville Lizard Kings in the East Coast Hockey League.
Minor League Coaching Journey
The coaching journey of Bruce Cassidy essentially began just days after retiring as a player. When Cassidy took over the head coaching position of the Lizard Kings, the team struggled out of the gate posting a record of 6-12-2. After he took over, the team finished the 1996-97 ECHL season with a 15-25-10 record. At the time of Cassidy’s hiring at Jacksonville, team had an affiliation agreement with that of Cassidy’s professional playing career, the Chicago Blackhawks.
In Cassidy’s second season with the Lizard Kings, he would lead the team to a 35-26-9 record for 76 points. While, the team still finished out of the playoffs that season, the Blackhawks rewarded Cassidy with a promotion the following season as the head coaching job with his former team, the Indianapolis Ice.
His time in Indianapolis only lasted one season as the team would fold from existence in the IHL after the 1998-99 season. Despite posting a record of 33-37-12, the Ice would advance to the second round of the Turner Cup playoffs.
Over the next four seasons with the Trenton Titans of the ECHL and then with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the IHL, Cassidy would find similar success with his players. His success did not go unnoticed by a number of NHL executives.
First NHL Coaching Stint
The Washington Capitals came calling for Bruce Cassidy’s services ahead of the 2002-03 season and much like his time in the minor leagues, he found instant success. A roster with Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra and Sergei Gonchar came alive. The Capitals would finish second in the Southeast Division that season only trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by a single point for first place. Cassidy’s first NHL season saw a record of 39-29-8-6.
In the playoffs, the Capitals and Lightning would face off in the first round of the playoffs with Cassidy’s Capitals taking games one and two in Tampa Bay. The series then moved to Washington with Lightning taking game three in overtime and getting a series tying 3-1 win in game four. Tampa Bay would go on to win the next two games by one goal including the series clincher in DC that went three overtimes.
Expectations for success in Washington became sky high with the showing of Cassidy’s success in his first season with the Capitals and in recent history in the minors. But the 2003-04 season saw the Capitals struggling to get out of the gate. After 25 games and a record of 8-16-1-1 the Capitals found themselves last in the division. Cassidy was fired. After the season was over, the Capitals would win the NHL Draft Lottery where they would select a player that would go on to not only be the cornerstone of the franchise, but one of the greats of all-time. That player was Alex Ovechkin.
The next season, Cassidy came back to Chicago franchise that gave him his first opportunity as a coach. This time it was as an assistant coach and like the previous season, his team struggled to gain any traction. the Blackhawks would finish with a 26-43-13 record in a lockout-shortened season and missed the playoffs. The services of Cassidy as an assistant with the Blackhawks would be short-lived but the legacy of their struggles that season came to a similar result as the Capitals the previous season. The Blackhawks would take Jonathan Toews with the third overall pick.
Back to the minors
Seeing that the NHL may nor be his calling card for the immediate future, the success he had in the junior and minor league ranks saw an opportunity to repair his resume with similar results to what he had in Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Trenton and Grand Rapids. His first season as the coach of the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, his squad struggled but still made the playoffs where they would be ousted in the first round. And much like his previous two stops in Washington and Chicago, Cassidy was fired in his second season with a poor start.
Whatever the issues were with Bruce Cassidy’s teams in recent history, the passion and the drive of success was still there. The Boston Bruins came calling. What they saw was his ability to get the most out of his younger talent. He was offered an assistant coaching position for the Bruins AHL affiliate in Providence. Three years into his tenure as the club’s primary assistant, Cassidy was ultimately promoted into the head coaching spot.
Every season with Providence with Cassidy as the head coach resulted in the Bruins obtaining a winning record. He would remain with Providence as their head coach for five seasons. Outside of his first season, the Bruins made the AHL playoffs every single season. With his winning ways continuing in Providence, a promotion would soon follow him. The Bruins would elevate Cassidy to an assistant coach under Claude Julien for the 2016-17 season.
Success in Beantown
Much like his time in the minors and junior ranks, coaching success seems to follow Cassidy where he goes. The Boston Bruins would eventually keep him around for five full seasons as their head coach. He was named as the Bruins head coach after the club fired Julien late into the 2016-17 season. That year, the Bruins go find a way to climb the standings and finish with an 18-8-1 record. Every season with the Bruins would result in an appearance into the playoffs.
In the 2018-19 season, Cassidy’s Bruins would not only finish 2nd in the Atlantic Division, they would reach the Stanley Cup Finals where they would face the St. Louis Blues. The Blues would go on to win that series in a highly competitive seven game series. After the season, Cassidy and the Bruins would decide they wanted to keep going for a few more seasons as they agreed to an extension. Cassidy and the Bruins were committed to a long term plan.
The following season, Bruins would end up with the league’s best record and awarded the President’s Cup. In the playoffs, Cassidy’s squad would eventually fall to the Lightning in the second round. The Lightning would go on to win the Stanley Cup in a season that was split up and delayed due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With success comes expectations. The Bruins were expecting a run at the Stanley Cup. In each of his next two seasons, the Bruins would still maintain their winning ways. Unfortunately for Cassidy and the Bruins, the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes stood in their way in the Stanley Cup playoffs in back to back seasons.
Moving on to Vegas
The expectations of the Bruins going to the Stanley Cup Finals is the reason why Bruce Cassidy would end up losing his job. With the Golden Knights moving on from DeBoer, the opportunity to grab Cassidy was one they could not pass up. A new chapter now opens up and both have high expectations.