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NHL: Paul Maurice and Bruce Cassidy prove their worth

LAS VEGAS — The joy felt by Paul Maurice the morning of the start of the Stanley Cup Finals was also tinged with sadness. The veteran head coach knew there were only a maximum of seven games left.

He developed a greater appreciation for that moment with the Florida Panthers, 21 years after making his first appearance in the Finals. Bruce Cassidy felt the same way as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, three years after stopping short of a Stanley Cup victory with the Boston Bruins.

Only one can lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in their career and their presence in the Finals shows why teams that want to win prioritize experienced coaches. Often referred to as “recycled,” coaches like Maurice and Cassidy offer tangible value in navigating crucial situations.

“Depending on where your team is in their process, that probably dictates to some degree what decisions you’re going to make about this job,” said Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who fired Peter DeBoer. after the team missed the playoffs last year. We thought that for our organization, an experienced coach was better for us. ”

The Panthers thought the same. They won the Presidents’ Trophy, given to the team with the NHL’s best record, but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs while under interim head coach Andrew Brunette, who was in his first such job.

Maurice left his position with the Winnipeg Jets in December 2021 and he offered Panthers general manager Bill Zito the stability needed to take the team to another level to be a title contender.

“You have experience, it’s invaluable,” Zito said. Maybe you’re a little more on the lookout. And a collective experience that engenders wisdom as a meaningful value. ”

Maurice, who saw his men lose in the first game of the final on Saturday, sees the benefit of being able to benefit from this experience more than in previous decades. His calm demeanor helped the Panthers erase a 3-1 deficit to the Bruins in the first round.

“I think maybe the biggest part of the experience is that you kind of understand the pressures of both dressing rooms,” Maurice said.

It also helps to have good chemistry between the players and the head coach. Veteran center Eric Staal has believed for some time that “this group needed Paul, and Paul needed this group.”

Staal knows what he is talking about. Maurice was his first NHL head coach with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003-04. Maurice was fired after the Hurricanes won just eight of their first 30 games and his replacement, Peter Laviolette, guided the team to a Stanley Cup title in 2006.

Maurice is a different coach now. He mentioned Sunday that in the mid-1990s, NHL coaches just lectured their players. Now, you have to have a good connection with them and push the right buttons.

Cassidy possesses those kinds of qualities, which evolved after a failed stint as a young Washington Capitals head coach from 2002 to 2004. He helped the Bruins make the playoffs six straight years, reaching the Stanley Cup in 2019. He was still fired after an early exit in the first round of the playoffs last year.

Cassidy was left jobless for only a week.

McCrimmon saw a head coach who, like two-time Stanley Cup champion Jon Cooper, had extensive knowledge after spending a long time in an organization. And who is a good head coach.

“We’re judged on the win,” McCrimmon said. He had signed a lot of them, that’s why we brought him here. And I think it lived up to our expectations and more along the way. ”

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