Of the choices that the Boston Bruins had to be their next head coach, Jim Montgomery was hands down the best possible selection.
Boston Hockey Now was among the first outlets to report Jim Montgomery’s hiring, which is believed to be a three-year contract that will give the Boston Bruins a good window into his ability to keep things moving forward in the right direction.
The 53-year-old former University of Maine star made it to the NHL briefly as a player, but has enjoyed greater success in a second career as a hockey coach where he’s gathered experience at several levels, won an NCAA title with the University of Denver and appeared to be turning things around for the Dallas Stars when he was fired during the 2019-20 NHL season for “unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.”
It turned out to be an alcohol issue that Jim Montgomery was accountable for afterward and sought help for prior to hooking on with the St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach for each of the last two seasons. Kudos to the Boston Bruins, first of all, for believing in second chances and giving one to Montgomery that he very clearly deserved.
Montgomery clearly has a background in dealing with younger players given his NCAA coaching resume, but that’s exactly what he was known for with the Blues in helping develop Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas while also building up a vaunted Blues power play that finished 2nd in the NHL with a 27 percent success rate last season.
Montgomery had a great relationship with the Blues young players, particularly Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou, who had breakout 82-game seasons. From the sounds of the coaching change in Boston, that’s what the Bruins were looking for. #stlblues
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) July 1, 2022
The other finalist, David Quinn, was unfairly slammed by Boston Bruins fans and, curiously, the media as well, but he similarly has a varied, extensive background coaching in the NHL, AHL and NCAA and would have been a solid choice despite just falling short during his Terriers tenure. Quinn is smart, likable, has a good rapport with the players and was seeing the New York Rangers through a difficult rebuild in New York where he wasn’t expected to win in his first couple of seasons.
Quinn was swept out with John Davidson and Jeff Gorton in a fit of James Dolan pique, and that truly shouldn’t be held against him like the backlash that the Boston Bruins front office surely observed when the former BU hockey coach’s name was floated out there. The biggest issue with a Quinn hiring, in this humble hockey writer’s estimation, might have been the perception, whether real or imagined, that Charlie McAvoy had any significant feedback in the hiring of his former Boston University coach as he begins to wield a stronger, more influential voice within the B’s organization.
There is no such qualm with Montgomery, who coached Danton Heinen at Denver and played with Boston Bruins goaltending development instructor Mike Dunham with the Black Bears, but otherwise doesn’t have any strong ties to the current Boston Bruins roster. He simply comes in as a good, experienced hockey coach expected to be able to win now with a veteran group and be able to shepherd along young players like Jack Studnicka, Oskar Steen, Jack Ahcan, Fabian Lysell, Mason Lohrei, Jakub Lauko, Johnny Beecher and others that are at different levels of development within the Boston Bruins organization.
It was clear in Boston’s interview choices for the job that a background coaching young players in a positive environment was high on Don Sweeney’s list, something he referenced on the day he addressed Bruce Cassidy’s firing.
“The coach has to have the communication skills to be able to bridge that gap with older and younger players. I think that’s paramount now with integration. As I said, in a perfect world, all players are overcooked or overbaked. Kenny Holland and my [general manager] peer group have used that terminology. We won’t be any different,” said Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney earlier this month when announcing the Cassidy firing. “But I go back, you’ve asked me about the Lysells of the world. Only when they’re ready. I mean, David Pastrnak is a great example of that a number of years ago. We didn’t necessarily believe he was ready, but he came in and scored against Philadelphia and next thing you know, he’s in our lineup for the rest of the year and impactful moving forward.
“Those will be the challenges that we try and find the balance of development and an infusion of talent, and the new coach is going to have to be able to communicate and bridge that gap from older players, communicating with them and holding them to a standard that I think we all feel is necessary. And in this town, it is necessary to hold a team to a competitive standard. That coach has to walk that walk.”
Montgomery by all accounts will “walk that walk” while bringing enough of a hockey resume outside the Boston Bruins organization that he isn’t going to simply serve out marching orders for Sweeney or Boston Bruins President Cam Neely either. People are way, way, way too quick to slam the Boston Bruins for everything they are doing these days while diligently fighting against Father Time that’s seeing an aging core of championship players cash out their chips with an unforgiving salary cap in place.
The order is coming due for this Boston Bruins organization’s 15 years of consistently good hockey, and Sweeney and Co. haven’t always been even remotely close to perfect when it comes to things like the 2015 NHL Draft or repeated failures to replace Milan Lucic at power forward with free agent flops Matt Beleskey, David Backes and Nick Foligno.
But it has never helped the Boston Bruins that they’ve traded away a slew of first round picks while taking runs at the Stanley Cup, or that there is very little appetite from Boston Bruins fans for a full-blown rebuild.
The Montgomery hiring should be viewed as a positive sign that the Boston Bruins are capable of making the right choice, even if relieving Cassidy of his coaching duties was an unpopular choice outside what sounds like a fairly large collection of players inside the Boston Bruins dressing room. It is worth nothing that a return for David Krejci for one more ride next season might again be a possibility after the coaching change as well.
**Keep an eye 👁 on **
I’m told David Krejci is currently spending part of his Summer in S.Carolina…with the injuries and new HC soon for the @NHLBruins , is there a chance he makes a return to the B’s this season ? @espn @NHL #HockeyTwitter
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) June 30, 2022
The bottom line: The news of Patrice Bergeron’s return and the hiring of Jim Montgomery are positive signs that the ship has been righted with the Boston Bruins after some tumultuous weeks following their playoff dismissal.