Stanley Cup coaches making most of 2nd chances behind bench


Every day, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and his St. Louis Blues counterpart Craig Berube report to the rink feeling fortuitous.

After their first-opportunity flameouts as NHL head coaches, the two 2018-19 Stanley Cup final bench bosses have made the most of their second chances at running a big-league bench.

Cassidy had the first shot in the NHL with the Washington Capitals. He made the 2003 playoffs in his rookie season, but the Capitals were eliminated in six games in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Cassidy was replaced by Glen Hanlon after Washington went 8-16-1 to start the following year.

The native of Ottawa resurfaced as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks for a season before he returned to the junior circuit to endure an unsuccessful stint with the Kingston Frontenacs.

Cassidy was fortunate that another Ottawa-area resident, Peter Chiarelli, was running the Bruins. The general manager hired Cassidy as an assistant with the AHL Providence Bruins.

WATCH | Rob Pizzo highlights 9 current players to play most games without a Cup: 

Joe Thornton will have to wait another year for a chance at Lord Stanley, but Rob Pizzo looks at 8 other players who are still in search of their first ring. 2:17

After three years with Providence, Cassidy replaced Rob Murray as head coach and then was promoted to an assistant coach with the big club in 2016. Cassidy replaced Claude Julien as Boston’s head coach with 27 games remaining in 2016-17 and here he is in the Stanley Cup, 17 years after he began that initial stint in Washington.

Berube replaced Peter Laviolette as head coach of the 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers after an 0-3-0 start. The Flyers were defeated in the first round of the playoffs that spring in seven games by the New York Rangers.

Berube was fired the following season after Philadelphia missed the post-season. The native of Calahoo, Alta. (near Edmonton) took a year off. Then the Blues hired him to run their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, in 2016-17. He was elevated as the Blues associate coach the next season and replaced Mike Yeo as head coach after a middling 7-9-3 start last fall.

Berube was the 11th coach to lead his team to the Stanley Cup final as a mid-season replacement. Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was the 10th. He won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Sullivan also made the most of his second chance, which has been more the norm than you think.

Winning takes time

The last first-time NHL head coach was the Penguins’ Dan Bylsma in 2008-09. Since then, here’s the timeline:

  • Joel Quenneville was the head coach for the third time with the Chicago Blackhawks when he won the league championship in 2009-10, 2013 and 2014-15.
  • The Bruins were Julien’s third team as a head coach when he steered Boston to the 2010-11 Stanley Cup. 
  • Darryl Sutter was with his fourth club when he coached the Los Angeles Kings to titles in 2011-12 and 2013-14. 
  • As mentioned, Sullivan was a NHL head coach for the second time when the Penguins won and then repeated. 
  • Last season, after a lengthy stint with the Nashville Predators Barry, Trotz was in his second NHL stint and fourth season in Washington when he won the Stanley Cup.

Yes, a coach needs the talent to work with. But Cassidy and Berube deserve plaudits for their playoff performance. How many of you had the Bruins and the Blues advancing all the way in your bracket?

These are two hockey lifers who stuck with it, born 211 days apart in 1965.

The older Cassidy, 54, was a prodigious talent. A defenceman, he was drafted in the first round (18th overall) by the Blackhawks in 1983. He made his NHL debut with Chicago late in the 1983-84 season, but after his one-game stint, he returned to help the Ottawa 67’s win the Memorial Cup.

WATCH | Blues stage remarkable turnaround to reach Stanley Cup final: 

St. Louis Blues will play in the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1970. 1:19

He struggled through knee problems and wound up playing in only 37 regular season and playoff games for Chicago.

But Cassidy was willing to squeeze the most out of his playing career in the minors and Europe. He also had some pretty good coaches in Brian Kilrea, Mike Keenan, the late E.J. McGuire, Jacques Martin and Sutter. So did Berube. His mentors as a player also included Keenan, Dave King, Roger Neilson and Jim Schoenfield.

The 53-year-old Berube, a hard-nosed left wing, played 1,143 combined regular season and playoff games despite going undrafted. He was involved in three blockbuster trades going from the Flyers to the Edmonton Oilers in a deal that sent Jari Kurri to Philadelphia. Kurri was flipped to the Kings the same day on May 30, 1991.

Berube was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs four months later along with Glenn Anderson and Grant Fuhr in exchange for Vincent Damphousse, Luke Richardson, Scott Thornton and goalie Peter Ing. The current Blues coach was on the move again less than four months later in the trade in which the Maple Leafs landed Doug Gilmour. Berube’s long career is a testament to his determination.

But both Berube and Cassidy have demonstrated their conviction as head coaches and have been rewarded this spring.



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