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Will Bruins Goalie Coach Bob Essensa Be Back Next Season?



Boston Bruins

For the first time in 20 seasons, could the Boston Bruins have a new goalie coach when they return for training camp and the 2023-24 regular season?

For the last 20 seasons former NHL goaltender Bob Essensa has been the Boston Bruins’ goalie whisperer the likes of 2004 Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft, two-time Vezina (2009, 20110), and 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas, 2014 Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask who is also the winningest goalie in team history with 291 wins between, and has the best save percentage (.922) of any goalie to lace them up for the Black and Gold. In just two seasons, he has helped turn Linus Ullmark into a 2023 Vezina Trophy finalist with Ullmark going 40-6-11 with a 1.89 GAA and .938 save percentage.

Given what happened between the pipes for the Boston Bruins in their seven-game series loss to the Florida Panthers and how head coach Jim Montgomery and general manager Don Sweeney reacted, there’s been some NHL chatter speculating on the future of Essensa in Boston.

When Sweeney, Montgomery, Boston Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs, and team president Cam Neely met with the media this past Tuesday, Sweeney was asked directly if any there would be any changes on Montgomery’s coaching staff?

“We don’t have anything impending, but I reserve the right that we’re going to have to continue to unpack what what’s best for our organization and what Jim feels would help continue to move this group going forward and we’ll make better decisions,” Sweeney replied.

One trusted NHL source had this to say on what’s transpired since the 2023 Presidents Trophy winners bowed out in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs and Ullmark looked nothing like a Vezina Trophy candidate:

“They threw him under the bus and even when Jim was trying to take more accountability he still referenced Bob and how much he leans on him,” the source opined to Boston Hockey Now. “Then Donny ‘reserves the right’ to change his mind when you guys asked him about the coaching staff. I’m not sure what the Bruins plans are with [Essensa], but that wasn’t a good look.”

As for the source’s opinion that Essensa was thrown under the bus, here’s what Montgomery had to say in the immediate aftermath of the Game 7 loss to the Panthers on April 30 when asked about why he took so long to make the switch from the struggling Ullmark to Jeremy Swayman, who started Game 7.

“We just thought he was going to give us the best chance tonight. You’d have to ask ‘Goalie Bob’ [Essensa] a little more in detail about that, but we all thought that he was going to give us the best opportunity tonight,” Montgomery replied.

That response unleashed a firestorm of interpretation that Jim Montgomery had just thrown Essensa under the bus, rather than owning the decision himself. This past Tuesday, the first-year Bruins bench boss conveyed more accountability and took a deep dive into the decision to not switch to Swayman after Game 5.

“In hindsight? Absolutely,” Montgomery replied when asked to dive deeper into his original reaction. “The mistake I made, is I try to put our players in the best position to excel. And I think with. …there’s an added mental grind in the playoffs and it takes a toll. That’s what I’ve learned through this grind is that the expectations that were put on our team going into the playoffs, there’s a price you pay. Everybody does, and I think we are going to learn from this – players, especially me, I’m going to have to learn – and I’mn going to have to help the players push through which I didn’t do this year.

All season long I said ‘Goalie Bob’ [Essensa], makes the decision. …I make the final decision right? I’m the one that picks the starter. So, it’s not ‘Goalie Bob’s decision but I really rely on him heavily. To answer your question specifically, we discuss this as a staff. I will talk in the playoffs especially even more so, with ‘Sweens’ [GM Don Sweeney], and Cam [team president Cam Neely], and in the end, we win Games 3 and 4 so you have two days off.

Montgomery then explained his rationale with starting Ullmark in Game 6.

“You think Game 5’s gonna go well and I personally spoke with Linus, and he answered me a real honest question, and took ownership of where he was at in Game 5,” he explained. “What he relayed to me was that you learn and you grow, and he was ready to grow and lead us to a Game 6 win, and that in the end, was what made me decide that he was our goaltender for Game 6.”

Montgomery was then asked to clarify if ‘the question was more Ullmark’s confidence and ability than his health at that point?’

“Yes,” said Montgomery, who along with Don Sweeney repeatedly stressed that Ullmark was given medical clearance to play Games 1-6 in the series.

The Read Here: What happened with Ullmark shouldn’t cost just one job, if any. Both Sweeney and Montgomery are already on record as accepting blame and Linus Ullmark also recognized his role. So why should Essensa be the only one to fall on a sword by losing his job? His track record and what he’s done with goalies like Ullmark and Thomas later in their careers has been nothing short of amazing. Let’s just hope this is all speculation but the fact Sweeney left the door open for such a change, means until we’re told otherwise its an offseason topic worth watching.


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