Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery is headed to a second-straight all-star weekend as the bench boss for the Atlantic Division.
The second-year bench boss also deserves to be in the conversation for a second-straight Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best head coach.
The 2023-24 Boston Bruins squad was never going to break the records that their predecessors set, but no one can argue they’ve exceeded expectations after longtime Bruins centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retired in the offseason. The Bruins also lost key players through NHL free agency and on the NHL trade market. But the reigning Jack Adams Award winner has his team at 25-8-9 as they begin the second half of their season against the New Jersey Devils (1 p.m. ET) in a Martin Luther King Day matinee. The Bruins enter NHL action today, first in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings and third overall in the NHL.
“It means we’ve got a lot of good hockey players, and we’re very blessed, and I’m grateful that I get to coach the Bruins because coaches go to the All-Star Game because they have good players,” Montgomery told the media in St. Louis after his team finished their four-game road trip with a 4-3 overtime win over the Blues on Saturday night.
Some Boston Bruins fans may not forgive Montgomery until the Bruins at least make the Stanley Cup Final, if not win it, with him as the Bruins bench boss. A portion of the Bruins fan base – and they have every right not to – just hasn’t forgiven Montgomery for his handling of the goaltending in his team’s first round seven-game series loss to the Florida Panthers in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Montgomery has since admitted he made a mistake by veering away from the goaltending tandem of 2023 Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman in the playoffs.
“Yes, I mean, there’s no reason. And I think, you know, you’ve got to learn from the past, too,” Montgomery told 98.5 The Sports Hub on Jan. 4. “Last year, I made a mistake by not doing that in the playoffs. And I think that we, as an organization, evaluate everything.”
He just navigated the Bruns through the grind of a four-game road trip out west that saw veteran forward Jame van Riemsdyk (one game), rookie center Matthew Poitras (two games), defenseman Brandon Carlo (three games), and goalie Linus Ullmark (two games), all miss games due to injury. Still, the Boston Bruins were able to somehow muster up five of a potential eight points and come home atop the conference and the division.
“This team isn’t the team we are without ‘Monty’ leading us, and he’s done such an incredible job of understanding the players and getting the best response out of each every one of us, and taking us aside and being truthful and real with us,” said Swayman, who will join Montgomery in his first all-star appearance.
“And that’s exactly what a player wants to hear is what do we need to do to get better and what do we need to do to help this team win, and he does exactly that. We are so lucky to have him as a head coach, and I know that we’re just getting started. So, he’s a special leader to be following.”
Boston Bruins captain Brad Marchand told reporters that it meant a lot to him and his teammates to get Montgomery back to the NHL All-Star game after he believed in a team that everybody once again wrote off.
“We talked about it before the game internally,” Marchand said on Saturday night. “Just he’s done a ton for our group, and we all care about him a lot, and he works extremely hard for this team, and we wanted to help him out there in that situation,” said the captain. “He’s come in and been great for this group and really bonded well with all the guys.
So, when you care about somebody like that, you want to see them have success and be very happy for all three guys on the team to be going and representing our team. And so, it’s awesome to see those guys get recognition for the great years they’re having.”
Bruins superstar winger David Pastrnak, who has also made a case to be in the Hart Trophy conversation again, will join Montgomery and Swayman in Toronto. Could all three be joining each other at the NHL Awards ceremony in Los Angeles next June?
They and all Bruins fans obviously would prefer all three to be hoisting the Stanley Cup a couple of weeks earlier but in the opinion of this puck scribe, Montgomery is currently a Jack Adams Award favorite.