When the Boston Bruins fired former coach Bruce Cassidy, it raised some eyebrows. It took three and a half weeks, but general manager (GM) Don Sweeney hired Jim Montgomery as Cassidy’s replacement. Montgomery was selected over several other candidates, but now that the search for a new coach is over, it’s time for Sweeney and the front office to focus on the 2022 offseason.
There are expected to be changes this offseason as there is with each passing offseason, but how much change remains to be seen. You have to think that some decisions that are going to be made will be based on the hiring of Montgomery. With that said, here are five questions facing the Bruins following Montgomery’s hiring.
Does Jake DeBrusk Still Want to Be Traded?
It should not have been a surprise to anyone in late November when it was revealed that Jake DeBrusk requested a trade through his agent. To the 25-year-old’s credit, he continued to play at a high level on a nightly basis after being a healthy scratch on Nov. 28 against the Vancouver Canucks and he finished the regular season on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. DeBrusk also finished the season with 25 goals, two shy of the previous career-high he scored in 2018-19.
From the outside looking in, you have to think that the frustration that has built up in the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft had a lot to do with Cassidy. The former Bruins coach called out the young left-wing in the media, and made him a healthy scratch several times over the last two seasons during the regular season and even once in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 5 against the New York Islanders. No one has hinted one way or the other as to where DeBrusk stands on his request, but decisions made over the next month could go a long way in answering that.
Does Cassidy’s Firing Tempt Krejci to Return?
On June 30, Kevin Weekes of ESPN reported that David Krejci was spending part of his summer in South Carolina and that with the injuries the Black and Gold are facing to begin the 2021-22 season and hiring a new coach, keep an eye on his possible return to Boston. Krejci left last summer as a free agent to continue his career in his home country of the Czech Republic.
For a number of years, Krejci centered the second line in Boston with a rotating door of right wings. DeBrusk was a staple on his left side prior to the 2020-21 season, then at the trade deadline, Sweeney acquired Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres to put next to Krejci and Craig Smith. The trio connected quickly and gave the Bruins a second line of production behind their top line.
Krejci still played at a high level this past season in the Czech Republic League with 20 goals and 26 assists in 51 games for Olomouc HC. There were signs of some rifts between Krejci and Cassidy and whether that is true, only they know. If there is any truth to Weekes’ tweet, then it’s worth keeping an eye out on a possible return for Krejci, especially if Bergeron returns for another season. For what it’s worth, Krejci is 38 NHL regular-season games away from 1,000.
What Direction Are the Bruins Going in 2022-23?
Now that Sweeney has picked his new head coach, it’s time to pick which direction the Bruins are going to go in 2022-23. Are they going all-in to be contenders or are they going to hit the reset button and begin some kind of rebuild? Either way, Montgomery will be looked to lead either plan.
If it’s going to be a plan to compete for a championship, in each stop Montgomery has had as a head coach, the teams have qualified for the postseason. If he is going to do that in Boston, he’s going to need Bergeron to return, Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk to return healthy from offseason surgeries around Thanksgiving and figure out a way to keep the Bruins within striking distance in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It won’t be easy with a loaded Atlantic Division and a just as strong Metropolitan Division.
If they go into some kind of rebuild, Montgomery has had success at all levels with younger players and their developments. No need to look further than the 2021-22 St. Louis Blues. 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. The Bruins are hoping for the same type of success with some of their younger players under Montgomery.
Things are going to start heating up for the Bruins with the Entry Draft Thursday and Friday, then free agency kicking off on July 13. By then, Sweeney should have a decision from Bergeron and the direction for the 2022-23 season.
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.