“I am excited to join an organization that shares my commitment to winning and can’t wait to work with the talent assembled in Vegas,” Cassidy said in a club statement. “It was great watching the city embrace the Golden Knights from afar, and my family and I look forward to becoming a part of that.”
A text message the Globe sent to Cassidy’s mobile phone, requesting comment, was not immediately returned.
Cassidy, 57, takes over from Peter Debor, who was fired May 16 after Vegas went 43-31-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time since entering the league as the 31st member at the start of the 2017-18 season.
Cassidy, who has delivered 672 percent in his five-plus seasons in Boston, is a perfect Las Vegas spot on a number of levels. Above all, he’s an experienced coach with a track record – the Bruins qualified for post-season each of the six seasons he spent behind the bench. He is also a huge fan and skilled seller of the sport.
Vegas has proven to be a fanatical and hockey-crazy outpost, unlike the struggling Phoenix market, and now there’s no doubt that Vegas fans and local media will be more involved in the product with Cassidy in action. Patient, insightful and often humorous with his daily coaching commentary, he will help the Vegas market and sell sports at a funky market where the only ice to be found in town must be made.
Cassidy arrives in Vegas at a time when the luster of the franchise’s early days, which included a trip to the cup final in its inaugural season, needs some polishing.
General Manager Kelly McCremon, brother of former defender Brad McCremon Bruins, made a bold deal last season to acquire franchise center Jack Eichel of Buffalo. Eichel, who was recovering from unconventional neck surgery, finally made it into the squad late in the season, but it wasn’t enough to stop Vegas from avoiding DNQ after the season. They finished two wins (4 points) just shy of overtaking Nashville for last place in the West.
Upon promoting Cassidy to the top position here in February 2017 to replace Claude Julien, Bruins was on the verge of losing his postseason tenure for the third year in a row. He inherited a team barely over 0.500 that season (26-23-1) and led him to an asterisk 18-8-1 (.685) over the last 27 games, lifting the Bruins to a first-round playoff against the Senate.
The Knights, who entered the league with Gerard Galant (now with Rangers) as their coach, should benefit from Cassidy’s accelerating style, although the change in pace shouldn’t be as sharp or obvious from DeBoer to Cassidy as it was from Julien to Cassidy.
Cassidy’s initial challenge will be to find a different chemistry between his attackers – task #1 there is to find Eshel’s right wing – and also to decide who will be the number one goalkeeper.
At this hour, the task of collecting nets is up to Robin Lehner, a 30-year-old veteran who has spoken openly, emotionally, and often with eloquence about his mental health challenges.
Lehner, not the #1 franchisee, is on the books for another three years at $5 million and will be out at least until November recovering from shoulder surgery. If McCremon can find the top spot in good faith, it would mean adding big bucks to the already-challenged payroll to come under next season’s cap of $82.5 million.
Cassidy, despite his talent, would not be the first coach to suffer under average or below-average goal-shooting pressure. He had a clear advantage during most of his career in Boston to keep Tuukka Rask in the net, and last season’s Jeremy Swayman-Linus Ullmark tandem proved promising.
Finding the proper fit and flow between the front wire will be critical, and perhaps the biggest goal is goal pursuit. Overall, McCremon has some creative math ahead of him, whether it’s via deals, acquisitions or cuts to get payroll compliant with the cap.
DeBoer, Cassidy and Barry Trotz (launched by Islanders last month) were the top three coaching names on the market this spring, with Cassidy initially confirming he would return to the Bruins in September, the last of three fired.
The three were selected last summer as assistant coaches on the Canadian team’s Olympic team, but the trio remained with their teams at the time when the NHL chose not to send in for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
Meanwhile, the Bruins have yet to name Cassidy’s successor. Jay Leach, the club’s former coach at AHL Providence, is believed to be the frontrunner.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.