John Gruden knew he needed to be part of the Boston Bruins organization again and that’s one of the reasons he became the new Bruins assistant coach last week.
When new Boston Bruins assistant coach John Gruden found out that new Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery would have an opening on his coaching staff, Gruden immediately reached out to Bruins general manager Don Sweeney.
“I heard when Jim got the job. I had texted Sweens – I lost Jimmy’s old number – ‘can you please give it to me if it’s available, I know you guys are looking for a defensemen coach,” John Gruden told the media late last week. Jimmy called me right away and then the process took 10 days, couple weeks. He went through his due diligence. We spent lots of time on some Zoom calls. I talked to Don – again, it was a lengthy process. They came to the conclusion that I would be the best guy for the job. I’m very excited to work with Jim and the rest of the staff and be back with a great tradition and organization.”
Gruden has never coached with Montgomery, nor are they good buddies, but he’s always admired the new head coach of the Boston Bruins and how he coaches.
“We’ve crossed paths. I have a lot of respect for him and what he’s done at every level that he’s coached. He’s a winner,” Gruden said. “He’s a great guy to be around the time that I’ve spent with him at rinks. I’m excited for the opportunity to work with Jim and the rest of the staff.”
The former Boston Bruins defenseman replaces former Bruins assistant coach Kevin Dean who was let go prior to former Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy being fired and Jim Montgomery was hired on July 1. Like Dean, Gruden’s specialty and focus is and will be on the blue line. He joins the Boston Bruins after spending the last four seasons (2018-22) as an assistant coach for the New York Islanders.
The Islanders, as most NHL fans know, are a defense-first team and at times resemble the New Jersey Devils dynasty teams that found success using the neutral zone trap teams that current Islanders general manager and former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello oversaw. However, in Boston, he will be tasked with activating the blue line into the offense more.
“We obviously talked about that stuff,” said Gruden. “I do believe one of the points that [Montgomery] made, he wanted to get them a little bit more active but without losing that ability to defend. That’s Boston’s MO – you can still do both and grow on the offensive part to get the D more involved to get the puck to the forwards and take the ice when it’s available, but not force it.
I’m obviously very familiar playing against Boston, coaching in New York. It’s exciting just to try to build on something that’s already there with Jimmy’s vision and the other staff. It’s exciting. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”