Monday afternoon at the TD Garden, the Boston Bruins introduced Jim Montgomery as the 29th head coach in franchise history. Team owner Jeremy Jacobs and CEO Charlie Jacobs joined team President Cam Neely and general manager (GM) Don Sweeney with Montgomery at the podium to answer questions.
There were a number of topics that Montgomery and Sweeney discussed and here are five takeaways from the 35-minute press conference.
Montgomery Is Grateful for Another Opportunity as a Head Coach Again in the NHL
Boston will be Montgomery’s second stint as a head coach in the NHL. His first stop was with the Dallas Stars from the start of the 2017-18 season until nearly the halfway point of the 2019-20 season before 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. During his time behind the Stars bench, he went 61-43-10 in 144 regular-season games and one trip to the playoffs. He spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach under Craig Berube with the St. Louis Blues.
“I’m very fortunate that I have a lot of great people in my life, a lot of good mentors,’’ said Montgomery. “I think everyone has ups and downs in life and if you learn from them you grow and get better. I think that things happen and I’m just grateful that it’s happened.’’
Montgomery’s second chance at being an NHL head coach is taking over a 51-win team that finished fourth in the Atlantic Division. The division is loaded with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Toronto Maple Leafs at the top, with the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators not too far behind the Bruins. It’s going to be a challenge, but one that Montgomery seems ready to fully embrace.
Montgomery Hoping New Style Leads Bruins to Be Tough to Play Against
Each night the Black and Gold take the ice this upcoming season, Montgomery expects a high compete and effort level, along with solid execution.
“I think for the fans on ice, it’s that we’re going to compete, that we’re going to be a team that’s known as a team for their execution,’’ said Montgomery. “I think around the league I want us to be known as a team that you better be prepared or else you’re going to be put on your heels.’’
Montgomery said he has watched a “fair amount” of tape from the Bruins’ 2021-22 season and after praising the job of former coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff, he hopes his new style will lead to more offense, something that Boston struggled with at times last season.
“This is a 51-win team last year and I think the (coaching) staff did a really good job last year,’’ said Montgomery. “Moving forward I think there’s areas that I’m hoping with the new different style, every coach has a different style coaching, that it’s going to lead to more offense. As a coach, again, I’m a glass-half-full person. So I’m looking at what we have. And that’s what excites me about the job.”
Montgomery Feels His Biggest Strength is Connecting With Players Young & Old
Montgomery will most likely be inheriting a roster that has some veterans on it, as well as some young players. His history of coaching younger players and having success has been a good one. He won an NCAA Championship with the University of Denver, then had a part in the rapid development and growth of Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou this past season with the Blues.
“I think my biggest strength is being able to connect with people and whether that’s young players or old players or that middle core group of your 24 through 28-year-olds that are incredibly vital,’’ Montgomery said. “I think the most important thing is I’m going to communicate how important everyone’s role is to the team’s success. I will always come back to how that person’s individual success can help the team’s success.’’
Under Cassidy, there were different ways that he connected with the players, but it appeared to rub some of them, both young and old, the wrong way. Cassidy was never shy about calling out a player with the media and that is something that I don’t think you will get too much from in Montgomery. A lot of that stuff will most likely be kept in-house.
Patrice Bergeron Was Montgomery’s First Phone Call After Being Hired
When he was officially hired as Bruins head coach, Montgomery’s first phone call was to free agent and captain Patrice Bergeron. It’s safe to say that he was impressed with his conversation with the five-time Selke Trophy winner.
“That was my first phone call,’’ said Montgomery of Bergeron. “It was really good and enlighting. I felt like I was talking to a coach, not a player. Just how he thinks about the team first, thinks about ways to get better, so very impressed. It was a very open and honest conversation about how he’s excited about what the Bruins family can do and how I’m excited to be part of it.’’
Montgomery said he has also reached out to more than half the current Bruins roster since being hired on July 1.
“I have touched base with probably half of the roster and it’s been very positive,’’ said Montgomery. “I have been very impressed with the team-first attitude that’s coming from the players.’’
Bruins Offer Restricted Free Agents Qualifying Offers
Sweeney confirmed that the Bruins extended qualifying offers to three restricted free agents (RFA). Jack Studnicka, Jack Ahcan, and Matt Filipe got offers ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline Monday night.
It’s not surprising that Studnicka got an offer as the Bruins clearly still see him as a part of the future up the middle. Currently, Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle, and Tomas Nosek are under contract, with Bergeron and possibly David Krejci back wearing the Black and Gold soon. Studnicka’s journey to a full-time NHL job has been blocked by veterans, but the 53rd overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft came close to making the roster at the beginning of the 2021-22 season. Expect him to get a shot in training camp this fall to impress Montgomery.
Ahcan has been impressive in his short stints in the NHL, despite his size at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds. With Matt Grzelcyk out to begin the upcoming season recovering from offseason surgery, expect the former St. Cloud State standout to get a chance to make the big club’s roster on opening night.
What the 2022-23 version of the Boston Bruins looks like is still to be determined, but Montgomery sounded confident and appears ready to take on the challenge of trying to improve a 51-win team. In order to do that, the roster will need a different look than it had when they skated off the ice following their Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in May.
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.