On June 6th, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney made a surprising announcement. The team fired head coach Bruce Cassidy. The former Boston Bruins head coach made six straight playoff appearances and had an overall record of 245-108-46.
Sweeney’s search for the 29th head coach in franchise history ended on July 1st. Jim Montgomery, former Dallas Stars bench boss, was named the Boston Bruins head coach. Montgomery’s second head coaching gig begins this season, so what does this mean for the Bruins? Furthermore, how will players respond to the new man in town?
Jim Montgomery Has Opportunity for Success as Boston Bruins Head Coach
Boston Bruins Former Head Coach Bruce Cassidy’s Exodus
Before the August 8th announcements of re-signing Patrice Bergeron, the return of David Krejci, and the signing of summer acquisition Pavel Zacha, the Boston Bruins offseason had been largely lacklustre. Their most significant move was the June 6th firing of head coach Bruce Cassidy. After leading Boston into the playoffs in his six seasons at the helm, including one trip to the Stanley Cup final, Don Sweeney was faced with making what he called “ an extremely difficult decision.” The Bruin’s General manager also commented on the decision saying, “After taking some time to fully digest everything, I felt that the direction of our team for both this season and beyond would benefit from a new voice.”
Cassidy’s Questionable Relationship With Bruins Players
Many questions have been raised about the relationship between Cassidy and some of his players. Sweeney, however, insists players were not driving the bus on his decision to fire Cassidy.
Jake Debrusk, who saw time as a healthy scratch under Cassidy, ultimately requested a trade last season. After being moved to the top line with Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Debrusk’s production picked up. He ended the season with 25 goals, just two short of his career high of 27 set back in 2018-19. Since Cassidy’s firing, the Bruins winger has rescinded his trade request, as confirmed by Sweeney on July 6th.
David Krejci also made comments back in January raising questions about his relationship with the former coach. “Coach Cassidy rarely let the two of us play together. It had to be so that he split the first line and put Pasta to me. It was a maximum of two matches. Years later, I leave Boston, and suddenly it’s possible. That struck me,” said Krejci Rumours of a Krejci return also picked up at the time of the coach’s dismissal, and the longtime Bruins center officially signed a new contract with Boston on August 8th. On August 11th Krejci denied that the coaching change was a reason for his return.
Former Bruin forward David Backes also had remarks about Coach Cassidy stating on the Cam and Strick podcast that “We had different views of how hockey should be played” he went on to add that “He was a smaller, puck-moving defenseman, and I tried to eat smaller puck-moving defensemen.”
Jim Montgomery Officially Hired as Boston Bruins Head Coach
After three weeks of a search for the B’s new head coach, the Bruins brass found the man for the job. Enter Jim Montgomery. Who, some may ask? Jim Montgomery. The 53-year-old, former Dallas Stars bench boss Montgomery, was named the next head coach of the Boston Bruins on July 1st.
New Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. pic.twitter.com/yMwkAEfBpe
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) July 11, 2022
Montgomery is shipping up to Boston following a two-year stint with the St Louis Blues serving as an assistant coach to Craig Berube. The Montreal-born Montgomery previously served as Dallas Stars head coach before being fired for “a personal behaviour issue.”
When taking a deeper look at his coaching history and underlying numbers, this will be a nice transition for the Bruins.
Montgomery’s Coaching History
Before starting his coaching career, Jim Montgomery had a professional playing career from 1993-2005, with most of his time spent in the minors, bouncing around from a few organizations. Montgomery began his coaching career in 2006, serving as an assistant coach at the college level for five years. He then went on to spend the next five seasons as head coach of the Denver Pioneers in the NCAA. In 2017 Montgomery helped the team capture a national championship. At the end of his coaching tenure in the NCAA, he finished with a 125-57-26 record.
Head Coach of the Dallas Stars
On May 4 of, 2018 “Monty” was officially named the head coach of the Dallas Stars. This was his first look as a bench boss in the big leagues. The Stars finished his first season fourth in the Central division with a record of 43-32-7. The Stars ranked 29th of 31 with 210 Goals For and second in the league with 202 goals against. This was good enough to qualify for the playoffs in a wild card position. The Stars would win the first round against the Nashville Predators before falling to the St Louis Blues in a hard-fought seven-game series. The Blues would eventually go on to be named Stanley Cup champions that season, winning the cup against the Bruins.
While the Stars were off to a record of 17-11-3 on December 10, 2019, Stars GM Jim Nill announced Montgomery was fired due to “unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.” At the time of his firing, the Stars had surrendered a Western Conference-best 76 Goals Against. The Stars’ power play ranked 11th in 2018-19, clocking in at a 21.03 % rate. Their penalty kill ranked fifth at an 82.77% success rate.
Monty Returns as an Assistant Coach
Montgomery didn’t return behind an NHL bench until September 2020, when the blues brought him in as an assistant coach. St.Louis clinched playoff berths in both seasons he was there. The Blues PP finished sixth in the shortened 2020-21 season and third in 2021-22. He significantly improved the Blues’ PK going from 25th in 2020-21 to fifth overall last season.
The Bruins PP finished 15th last season, while the penalty kills finished ninth. They will see some improvement in special teams under Monty’s guidance. Having Krejci back will give the coach more threatening options on the man advantage.
Jim Montgomery and What He Brings to the Bruins
Montgomery’s history makes him believe he is a perfect fit for the Bruins. Boston has an uncertain future, with aging veterans nearing the end of their careers. His experience coaching at the NCAA level will be vital. The B’s have a plethora of players who played NCAA hockey. Craig Smith, Charlie Coyle, Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Trent Frederic, Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, Jeremy Swayman, and Mike Rielly all come through college ranks. Boston will be somewhere in the top five in goals against under the new coach. Expect a new career high in goals for Debrusk, who is a prime candidate to excel under the new coach. Taylor Hall is another player who should excel under Montgomery. Hall had excellent chemistry with Krejci after being traded to Boston. A Hall-Krejci-Pastrnak line will give Boston the second line punch they need behind Marchand-Bergeron-Debrusk
Critical off-season injuries will have the Bruins opening night roster missing some big names. Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyk will start the season on long-term injured reserve. It will be a challenging start for the new coach. The Bruins’ ability to keep pace early in a vastly improved Atlantic division will be crucial. Jim Montgomery has made the playoffs in every season he’s been behind an NHL bench. That streak will not end this season.
Welcome to Boston, Monty.