Bruins’ Krejci Latest Player Suggesting Coaching Change Was Due

Following their elimination in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven games by the Carolina Hurricanes, there were so many questions surrounding what the future held for the Boston Bruins. Who was going to be back for the 2022-23 season? Who was going to be gone? Was that the last time anyone would see Patrice Bergeron in a Bruins uniform and was he heading for a well-earned retirement?

There were many questions, but very few answers. Three weeks after the season ended and everyone scattered their own way for the summer, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney made a trip on the afternoon of June 6 to Bruce Cassidy’s suburban Boston home. The Bruins GM made the 15-minute drive north of the city to inform Cassidy that despite having a year remaining on his contract, he was being released from his duties, weeks after telling him he would be back.

Related: 5 Bruins Storylines to Watch in the Second Half of 2022-23

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The move sent shock waves through not only the Bruins fanbase, but the NHL. What changed Sweeney’s mind? Why make the move weeks after telling him he was safe? He spoke about that a day after the removal of Cassidy.

“The timing, after taking a few weeks to unpack a lot of things that happen over the course of the year, and where I thought our team was currently and equally — with some of the surgeries and some of the things coming out — where our team was gonna be going forward, impacting our club, I just felt that the messaging and the voice that was gonna be required, I felt we needed a new direction,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney’s New Direction Was Jim Montgomery

After a coaching search that lasted three weeks, the Bruins’ former defenseman decided to hire Jim Montgomery and give him a second opportunity in the NHL as a head coach. Known more of a players coach than Cassidy, the former Dallas Stars coach and St. Louis Blues assistant has come right in and installed his system that has everyone on the roster succeeding.

Jim Montgomery Boston Bruins head coach
Jim Montgomery, Boston Bruins head coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Following the Bruins’ 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 16, veteran David Krejci, who spent last season in his home country of Czechia instead of returning to Boston in free agency following the 2020-21 season and had just played in his 1,000th career NHL game, spoke about the makeup of the 2022-23 Black and Gold and returning to finish his career with the team that drafted him. He also spoke about the change behind the bench since he was last in Boston.

“I’m very thankful and grateful that they gave me a call in the summer to come back,” Krejci said. “Obviously there’s some expectations, but I’m just glad with the way the team is playing. The record speaks for itself. I feel this could be a special year. We know what we have in this room, we don’t take it for granted, and we’ll see how it goes.

“I like the mentality of this team .. The coaching change helped a lot.”

In training camp, defenseman Brandon Carlo was outspoken about the change behind the Boston bench.

“I feel like there’s just a certain calmness because I’m not worried about making a mistake,” Carlo said. “That’s the thing that got in my head last year. I was just too worried about, essentially, f—ing up. I’ll just be blunt.” (from ‘Brandon Carlo, Jim Montgomery and the impact of a new voice on the Bruins: ‘Something we really needed’,’ The Athletic, Sept. 14, 2022).

In November, Nick Foligno, a veteran and former captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, spoke about the coaching change and how it’s affecting him and his teammates.

“He really understands what our team is going to have success with, and that’s being a heavy team down low,” said Foligno. “He talks about wearing out the goal line. That’s conducive to a lot of guys in this room. So I think just that messaging alone plays into a lot of guys’ hands where they feel like the offense can start to come because of that. They’re more comfortable. The reads you can make down low, you don’t get burned on as many times if it doesn’t work out. There’s still a 200-foot game that a team has to get to. I think he’s given the guys some freedom to open up, especially on the power play, where our looks — our power play has always been good — but I think those guys feel freed up to make some more plays.”

Krejci is the latest member of the Bruins to speak about the change in voice. The new system of Montgomery’s gives the defensemen more freedom in the offensive zone and to join the rush out of the defensive zone. There have been many times this season where that system has been the deciding factor in games. It has also revived some players’ careers and provided them with a lot of depth.

The Results Speak for Themselves

When the firing of Cassidy happened, three weeks after he was told he was returning, it raised some flags as to why the change of heart? Was it the players speaking to Sweeney and team president Cam Neely behind closed doors that they couldn’t take Cassidy anymore? We may never know, but the hiring of Montgomery has changed a lot of things on a team that only had Krejci returning and acquiring Pavel Zacha as the only two big moves over the offseason.

Bruce Cassidy Vegas Golden Knights
Bruce Cassidy was quickly hired as head of the Vegas Golden Knights after being fired in Boston. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Jake DeBrusk, who is currently sidelined with a fractured fibula, requested a trade in 2021, but after the Bruins kept him through the trade deadline last March and signed him to a team-friendly contract extension, he rescinded his trade request last summer. He was on pace for a career year this season and was second on the team with 16 goals at the time of his injury. Krejci returned this season and Montgomery put him on a line with David Pastrnak and the results speak for themselves. He has 35 goals in 43 games and chasing Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers for the Maurice Rocket Richard Award.

Trent Frederic has already set a new career-high in goals with nine and his game is rounding into form. Taylor Hall has excepted a third-line assignment with Charlie Coyle and Frederic, which gives the Black and Gold three scoring lines, while Foligno is a different player and Tomas Nosek has been better than he was last season on the fourth line.

The Bruins have the best record in the NHL at 34-5-4 and they’re playing at an insane record-setting pace. Can they keep this up? The next eight games will go a long way into determining that as they have seven of the eight on the road before the All-Star break.

There were a lot of people questioning the move of firing Cassidy last June, but through 43 games this season, the results speak for themselves. It’s clear that Sweeney was correct, a new voice was needed in the locker room, but what also is in the locker room beside a new voice is a veteran core that can police the room themselves. Players up and down the lineup are playing more freely and Krejci’s comments speak volumes about the 2022-23 Bruins season. It also speaks for a lot, if not all, of the locker room, as well.

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