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Cassidy’s patience pays off as Knights eye consecutive Stanley Cups

Bruce Cassidy has never gone through a season like this.

It was one filled with ups and downs and inconsistencies that, during any other year, would have driven the Golden Knights’ coach to the brink of insanity.

Cassidy spent the previous seven seasons of his head coaching career hoping his tactics and direct way of thinking would translate to a championship. Once he lifted the Stanley Cup last summer, he was able to take a step back and observe things with a broader lens.

That’s what happens when you develop patience.

“It was new to me,” Cassidy said.

Patience isn’t a foreign concept to Cassidy’s everyday life, but it was a needed adjustment for an 82-game regular season.

Cassidy hit the ground running after being hired by the Knights in June 2022. He joined a team that had just missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Knights had five months off and were ready to go when they returned.

Cassidy spent a year drilling the team into understanding his preferred style of play. The Knights took advantage of every practice day possible to perfect their structure.

Things were different after winning the Cup. The Knights’ five-month layoff became three. Cassidy was forced to balance keeping the team sharp in practice versus giving players rest when needed.

The extra days off the ice led to games where the Knights weren’t at their best. But it was something Cassidy had to accept.

“I had to go home and remind myself, ‘Listen, guys mentally, they’re thinking ahead or thinking backwards. You have to find ways to connect with them and find out if that’s what they’re thinking,’” Cassidy said. “There’s a lot more checking in this year with the group on why we’re flat.”

Cassidy knew the Knights weren’t playing their best to begin the season despite a 11-0-1 start. The team did end up banking points that proved crucial down the road.

His patience was tested later during two ugly stretches that could have derailed the Knights season. The team went 3-8-0 from Dec. 19 to Jan. 13. The Knights then went 4-9-1 from Feb. 12 to March 14.

“I always felt in this league, if you have a bad month, you’re missing (the playoffs),” Cassidy said. “We got away with that because we had a great month. We had that in the bank, but you can’t usually use that.”

The poor stretches were painful because of how high the Knights set expectations.

Cassidy didn’t mince words when he spoke outside T-Mobile Arena during the team’s championship parade June 17. When fans starting chanting his name, he encouraged them to shout “back to back” instead.

The pressure was on. It was a weight Cassidy welcomed entering his second season. He and his players didn’t run away from the desire to repeat.

“You want him to have that same approach, that same mindset, that same desire to push us to be better and the desire for himself to be better,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said before the season. “That’s what pushes you through the season. I think it’s a good thing that he hasn’t wavered from who he was last year to now.”

The Knights, despite some ups and downs, found a way to punch their playoff ticket again. Cassidy is confident the team can draw from its performance last postseason when the puck drops.

That isn’t to say the roller coaster won’t continue. Even last year, the Knights lost Game 1 to the Winnipeg Jets 5-1 before winning four straight to advance out of the first round.

Cassidy’s patience paid off in getting the team back to the playoffs. It’ll be tested again as the Knights try to become the third team since 2000 to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

“We can’t just rely on, ‘Well, we did it last year. Let’s just pick up from Game 5 against Florida.’ That’s a bad mentality, too,” Cassidy said. “We’ve got to pull it out of them again this year or they have to get it out of themselves this year.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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