Could the Boston Bruins move on from Jim Montgomery after just one season?
That was the was the main talking point on 98.5 The Sports Hub during the Felger and Mazz Show on Tuesday afternoon, and while this puck scribe tends not to agree with either of the shock jocks’ usually crazy, hot takes, it was a completely fair question and observation after what took place at TD Garden on Tuesday morning.
“If they’ve done one thing well over their decades of ownership its blame and fire coaches,” host Michael Felger said of Bruins ownership. “It’s what they’ve done. It’s what they’ve done most consistently and is probably their calling card. They’ve owned the team for 50 effin years and they’ve had three general managers. They’ve had how many coaches? So they are conditioned as owners to get off the plane from Buffalo or off the boat in the Bahamas or off the horse in Wellington, check in with their general manager, have their manager throw the coach under the bus, have them say, ‘Well, that sounds good’ and fire the coach. This is the Bruins experience that we’ve had here now for half a century. And that’s what it felt like today.”
As much as it pains me to say it, Felger is exactly right. The NHL betting odds of Montgomery being fired this offseason are definitely higher than expected, but the smarter NHL betting play is probably that the Boston Bruins bench boss will be on a very short leash to start the 2023-24 regular season.
An extremely accountable Jim Montgomery was part of the end of the season press conference on Tuesday, along with Boston Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs, team President Cam Neely, and general manager Don Sweeney. The fact that Montgomery was sitting there with the team brass, unlike his predecessor and current Vegas Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy after he, like Montgomery, failed to navigate his team out of a seven-game first round series, had to be a sign that Montgomery is safe right?
Last spring, Cassidy and Sweeney addressed the media after the Boston Bruins lost to the Carolina Hurricanes, and Neely did his own press conference a few days later. Neely confirmed that Sweeney, who was in the final season of his contract, would be signed to a new deal, but was not was non-committal on Bruce Cassidy, who had led his team to seven straight playoff appearances, including Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final and the 2020 President’s Trophy.
“I think we have to look at making some changes as far as how we play,” Neely said when asked about the status of the 2020 Jack Adams Award winner at Warrior Arena last May 19. “I think Bruce is a fantastic coach. He’s brought a lot of success to this organization. I like him as a coach.”
Just 18 days later the Boston Bruins announced that they had fired Cassidy and 13 days later Montgomery was hired.
While Neely did nothing to leave the cloud of uncertainty he hung over Cassidy last year on Montgomery, Jacobs certainly didn’t give the coaching any ringing endorsements.
“It’s certainly not complacent,” Charlie Jacobs replied when asked how his father and longtime Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs felt about, statistically, the best regular season team in NHL history exiting the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs after just one round. “I talk to the Chairman every day, and he watches every hockey game for the Boston Bruins and frankly watches a lot of other teams play, too.
I think at first, it was disbelief, perhaps, that we were out in the first. And then like all of us, the fans — he wants answers. He wants to understand how can this personally transpire. I feel, personally, I feel the same way. I feel incredibly disappointed — in that regard, feel the same way. On some level, on many levels, I feel accountable for the fanbase here. The responsibility to deliver the best club we possibly can for the people of Boston and New England. I do feel like our management pushed all the right buttons this year to deliver the best possible team we could for our fans. At some point, you have to hand that off to the coach, and the general manager and the team president to execute. We’re all in this together, and we share in the disappointment.”
Charlie Jacobs was pressed even more on the potential of his father wanting heads to roll:
“I’m here to speak on behalf of the Boston Bruins as the CEO of the organization,” he replied. “He’s the Chairman of the National Hockey League. I couldn’t say he’s called me and said, ‘I want somebody gone,’ or, ‘I want this guy gone, or that guy gone or this person promoted,’ that’s not how he operates. He put faith in the management team that we have here, and counts on us to execute, and when we don’t, he’s disappointed.”
So does Charlie want change?
“So we’re clear, I feel just now, you put words into my mouth,” he replied to the reporter. “I didn’t ask for change. I don’t — I just got finished mentioning that I feel like our general manager, our team president pushed all the right buttons to deliver the best possible team we could for this year. I applaud them for the work they’ve done, I’m far from asking for a management change.”
But what about a coaching change? No where in there did Jacobs directly defend or approve of the job Montgomery did in his first season behind the Bruins bench. The read here is that Jim Montgomery is likely safe for now but on a very short leash to start the 2023-24 season. Still though, as Felger pointed out, you just never know with the Jacobs-owned Boston Bruins.