Exactly three weeks to the day after Boston Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney fired former coach Bruce Cassidy, it was announced that Sweeney had agreed to a multi-year extension to stay on as the Black and Gold’s GM. In what is expected to be a busy offseason, Sweeney made his first big move when it was announced Friday afternoon that Jim Montgomery was going to be the man behind the bench to replace Cassidy and become the franchise’s 29th head coach.
Montgomery was picked over many rumored names that Sweeney had an interest in. Some of the names that were rumored to be interviewed were former New York Rangers and Boston University coach David Quinn, Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant coach Spencer Carbery, Seattle Kraken assistant coach and former Providence Bruins coach Jay Leach, Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Mike Vellucci, and Providence College coach Nate Leaman (from ‘New names in Bruins’ job search,’ Boston Globe, June 30, 2022).
In the end, hiring Montgomery fits the bill Sweeney was looking for in his next head coach of the Black and Gold and should be considered the best of what was left available after other teams recently filled their head coaching positions.
Montgomery Fits What Sweeney Was Searching For
Sweeney said that he wanted a coach that was able to get messages across to his young and older players and Montgomery fits that bill and checks all the boxes for what the Bruins GM was looking for. When Sweeney met with the media following Cassidy’s firing, he said that message and how it was being delivered and how it was being received was a factor in moving on from Cassidy and finding a new replacement.
“I felt that both the message and how it was being delivered, and more importantly maybe how it was being received, young and old,” he said. “That’s where I referenced both younger and older players taking ownership of it, as I would and I do with where our roster is at and the changes that I ultimately have to make. I think the players felt they were very well prepared, but at times, young and old, they struggled. Sometimes that’s the voice that’s in their head. I think ultimately I had to make a decision that takes us in a different path.”
Montgomery has experience in both the NHL, USHL, and the NCAA. He was head coach at the University of Denver for five seasons, compiling a 125-57-26 record, and won the 2017 NCAA Division 1 championship with a 3-2 win over the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Anaheim Ducks young standout Troy Terry was part of that team as a sophomore.
Following the 2017-18 season, Montgomery was hired by the Dallas Stars as their head coach. He went 61-43-10 in 114 regular-season games. He led Dallas to a fourth-place finish in the Central Division in his first season, only to lose in seven games in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the Stars’ first postseason berth in three seasons. He was fired by Dallas 32 games into the 2019-20 season with an 18-11-3 record. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Montgomery was fired for “a personal behavior issue’’ which turned out to be alcohol abuse and he sought treatment for it.
Before being let go, Montgomery had the Stars heading in the right direction. That was never more evident than in the 2020 NHL Playoff bubble in Edmonton. Dallas advanced through the Western Conference playoffs to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final, only to lose in six games.
Montgomery comes to the Bruins with a lot of success with young players. Aside from winning the NCAA title with Denver, he won the 2011 and 2013 USHL championships as head coach of Dubuque Fighting Saints. Cassidy was criticized for the way he handled the younger players and Montgomery will bring a different approach that the younger players could like.
Young Players Thrived Under Montgomery in St. Louis
Montgomery spent the last two seasons behind the bench with Craig Berube with the Blues. He was in charge of the power play and had the Blues’ ranked second in the league behind the Edmonton Oilers in efficiency. He comes to Boston with a group when healthy is as dangerous a first unit as there is in the NHL, something that will be key to the Bruins’ success next season.
Not only did Montgomery help the St. Louis power play, but he also oversaw the development of some of the Blues’ young prospects, but no two players thrived more than Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Thomas was second on the team with 77 points on 20 goals and 57 assists. Kyrou finished two points behind Thomas with 27 goals and 48 assists. Say what you want, but Montgomery’s resume in the USHL, NCAA, with the Stars, and with the Blues says a lot about him as a coach who had each team he was behind the bench for heading in the right direction and he had success with young players.
Montgomery Will Look to Keep Bruins Competitive
It remains to be seen which direction the Black and Gold are going to go in the 2022-23 season. A lot of that depends on the decision of Patrice Bergeron to either retire or return for another run. Joe McDonald of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported on June 23 that Bergeron is expected to return on a one-year contract, while Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald reported one day later that Bergeron is expected to sit down with Sweeney soon.
If Bergeron does return, the Bruins will add to the current roster and make additions to put them in a position to be contenders for another season. Charlie McAvoy, Brad Marchand, and Matt Grzelcyk are going to miss the beginning of the season as they recover from offseason surgeries, so there is going to be a need to add to the roster to remain competitive until they are at full strength.
If Bergeron does not return, then Montgomery will lead some kind of rebuild and give some of the younger players in the organization some playing time to develop. Boston has some younger players that caught the ire of Cassidy and the case could be made that it affected their development. With a new coach in place, more opportunities could arise for some of the younger players to get more NHL and try to keep the Black and Gold competitive in the Eastern Conference.
Hiring Montgomery is a Win-Win Situation for Sweeney & the Bruins
Why is it a win-win situation for Sweeney and the Bruins? He comes to Boston winning at each level he has coached in, he has success with young players, and he has had success with older players in the NHL. In the end, Sweeney hired a players coach, something that the 2022-23 edition of the Boston Bruins should like.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.