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Assistant Coach John Stevens Details What A Team Needs To Win The Stanley Cup

Golden Knights assistant coach John Stevens knows what it takes to win in the NHL. As an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings, Stevens was the architect of one of the best defensive units in the league leading the Kings to a pair of Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and 2014. When he came to Las Vegas, he stood behind the Golden Knights bench and oversaw a defensive unit that dominated night in and night out on their way to the promised land again.

Stevens recently sat down with hockey author, podcaster, and skills coach Anthony Donskov to chat about Vegas’ run to the Cup. The brother of former Golden Knights assistant Misha Donskov dove deep into many of Stevens’ philosophies in an excellent interview well worth a listen from start to finish.

Donskov asked Stevens what are the tangible assets a team must have to win. Stevens gave him a three-pronged answer.

You have to start with personnel. The teams that I’ve won with both in the American League and the National League it seems that the consistent thing with those teams is being really good down the middle of the ice with centermen and really good on the back end. –John Stevens on The HPH Podcast with Anthony Donskov

Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Chandler Stevenson, and Nic Roy. Yeah, the Golden Knights were pretty darn good down the center. On the back end, they had the best unit in the NHL. Check and Check.

The other thing that’s consistent is the depth of the team. You’re going to need your stars to be stars but if you look at our team in Vegas it was very evident that our depth really allowed us to separate as series went on. I felt that against Edmonton, I felt that against Dallas, and I certainly felt that against Florida that our depth separated us and we got better and better and started to pull away from teams. –Stevens on The HPH Podcast with Anthony Donskov

The Golden Knights were fortunate they didn’t have to dig deep down into the depth of the team during the postseason, as they only missed William Carrier (four games), Shea Theodore (one game), and Brayden McNabb (one game). However, the depth that was in the lineup nightly clearly exceeded expectations. Ivan Barbashev, Michael Amadio, and Brett Howden all played the “third wheel” position perfectly, and Carrier, Roy, and Keegan Kolesar formed an excellent fourth line. Defensively, it’s hard to find a much better third-pair than Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague.

The last thing is that all of those teams that win are committed to playing without the puck. That’s from the top guys right on down. You can have the bottom of your lineup committed without the puck but if the top guys aren’t committed I don’t think you get it done. With that comes a selfless attitude. You have to be committed to give up a little bit of your game to play the way the coach and people in charge believe the team needs to play. –Stevens on The HPH Podcast with Anthony Donskov

Stevens went on to explain how that commitment on the ice often spills over to the way the team interacts off the ice. He said the fact that the players all live close to each other and spend a lot of time with each other added into the bond that was formed which was on display for the world to see on the run to the Cup.

He also named one player in particular, a player not even part of the unit he was in charge of coaching.

You look at Jack Eichel this year, he was our best offensive player and by the end of it he was our best defensive player. –Stevens on The HPH Podcast with Anthony Donskov

So, there you have it, that’s all it takes to win. A collection of great centers, a strong defense, excellent depth, and a commitment to playing without the puck. The 2022-23 Golden Knights had it all, and the best news, the 2023-24 team still has every aspect in place.


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  1. Jailbird

    Abso-fuckin-lutley. The key to winning the cup again is the commitment of the players, to play for the team and not just numbers for themselves. We may have some ups and downs this regular season, cup hangover, and all that. IF we stay relatively injury free, then I think it will be tuff to keep us from a deep run.

  2. Jailbird

    Hey Ken, any update on just when Cox is going to have Vegas34 channel up and going? Thanks

  3. TS

    Depth is crucial. And the
    Community Mindset”the guys share is the glue that binds the team. SUPERGLUE for ATHLETES!! We are a very lucky city in the HOCKEY World!!

  4. THE hockey GOD

    John A. Stevens (born May 4, 1966) is a Canadian professional ice hockey coach and former player. He is an assistant coach of the Vegas Golden Knights. He is the former head coach of the Los Angeles Kings and the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League (NHL). Stevens was a defenceman for the Flyers and Hartford Whalers during his playing career. Stevens was born in Campbellton, New Brunswick, but grew up in Turkey Point in Norfolk County, Ontario.

    During the 2011–12 season, after Kings coach Terry Murray was fired, Stevens acted as interim head coach for 4 games before Darryl Sutter took over. He then returned to his post as Assistant Coach, a position he held when the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history at the season’s end. The Kings again won the Stanley Cup in 2014 with Stevens as an assistant behind the bench.

    On June 18, 2014, he re-signed with Kings and was promoted to associate head coach.

    On April 23, 2017, Stevens was named the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.[4] In his first season as the head coach of the Kings, he guided the Kings back to the playoffs as the first wild card in the Western Conference, but they were swept by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. On November 4, 2018, the Kings fired Stevens after a 4–8–1 start to the 2018–19 season.[5][6]

    He later became Assistant Coach for the Dallas Stars, a position he left on May 20, 2022. He later joined the coaching staff of the Vegas Golden Knights, as an assistant coach, which was announced on June 28, 2022.

  5. Jake

    One aspect that seems overlooked is the discipline and depth to keep the minutes of ice time down for the top lines.

    I would be interested in a detailed comparison about this topic. Because of “minutes rationing” Vegas kept some jump, never “emptied their clips” on a single game, and admitted that as a team they all felt fresh enough to go another 7 games without issues.

    Two Cents

  6. Emmanuel

    Luck is the biggest factor by far in the modern NHL as there is so much parity. look at the Bruins, one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) regular season teams of all time and they checked all the above boxes. Anything can happen in a short series. The Presidents Cup winner is rarely rated as the favorite to win the Cup.

  7. Hockeydiva

    We are lucky to have coach Stevens. He has lots of experience in winning teams. And COACH has the passion required to go after the CUP again. I loved his yell when he got to raise this CUP

  8. THE hockey GOD
    VGK have officially signed Max Comtois to a PTO.

  9. knights fan in minny

    nick holden retiring will work for the golden knights

  10. Harper

    Just wanted to let y’all know that former Golden Knight Nick Holden is back with the team working in the front office.

  11. Jailbird

    Nicks a good guy. Players love him! Glad the Knights found a spot for him to remain with the organization . Just a couple weeks for pre-season hockey! Oh baby!

    • THE hockey GOD

      maybe he can team up with Engle and make some really good TV car commercials ?

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