By: Mike Sullivan | Follow Me On Twitter @_MikeSullivan
For a brief moment, the Boston Bruins were without a head coach after the firing of Bruce Cassidy. Many questioned the decision as Cassidy had led the team to six straight seasons of playoff runs, never missing the playoffs once as head coach of the Boston Bruins. Therefore, when he was fired, many fans held it in question. However, it has proven to be the correct decision.
Jim Montgomery was announced as the new Boston Bruins head coach on June 30th, 2022. He began his head coaching career in 2013-2014 with the University of Denver, staying with them until 2017-2018, where he helped guide his team to a National Championship victory in the 2016-2017 season. Over those five seasons in the NCHC, his overall record as head coach reached a whopping 125-57-26.
On May 4th, 2018, Jim Montgomery was offered his first head coaching gig in the National Hockey League by the Dallas Stars, and he took it. With the help of Montgomery’s influence, he moved a struggling Dallas Stars team to a 43-32-7 record. Good enough for the Stars to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons before they lost in the second round to the St.Louis Blues.
On December 10th, 2019, Jim Montgomery was fired from his coaching duties due to what the team called “unprofessional conduct.” Rumors swirled in the media on what that could mean, but Montgomery took full responsibility. He was quoted as saying, “When I looked in the mirror, people wonder why I’m thankful for the Dallas Stars and (general manager) Jim Nill for what they did even though I understand that I disappointed Jim Nill, the staff I worked with and the players especially. I let them down, that firing was deserved, I wasn’t doing the right things.”
In the summer of 2022, Jim Montgomery was named the Boston Bruins’ Head Coach. Some challenges he faced coming into the season were question marks surrounding Bergeron and Krejci, injuries sidelining critical guys for the beginning of the season, mainly Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyck, and Brad Marchand, the challenge of re-invigorating a seemingly disgruntled Jake DeBrusk.
Whether you believe or disbelieve that Bruce Cassidy’s shtick had run tired with guys such as Jake Debrusk and David Krejci, you must admit that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In less than two weeks from the Montgomery hiring, David Krejci signed a one-year contract to return to the Bruins, as did Patrice Bergeron. Jake DeBrusk has also been having a career season. The mood around the Bruins was shifting, but there was still doubt.
Even though the Bruins had just signed Bergeron and Krejci to two very team-friendly deals, many picked the Boston Bruins to either miss the playoffs or be a wild-card team at best. Nobody had predicted the kind of run that they’d been on.
Through 56 games, Jim Montgomery has surged this team to a historic run, placing their record at 43-8-5. Rivaling the 1996 Detroit Red Wings team that holds the record for the best season ever at 62-13-7. Jim Montgomery’s team is in a position to surpass that season. His style of coaching and outgoing and laid-back persona helps bridge the gap between players and coaches in today’s NHL. The rough and tough style coaches have found their perspectives on coaching to be outdated and stale. Jim Montgomery is the ideal coach for the new NHL culture.
The Boston Bruins have surprised everybody this season. Much of that is the influence of Jim Montgomery. For example, we all know Jake DeBrusk requested a trade last season due to disagreements between himself and the former head coach, Bruce Cassidy. It may not have ever been said publicly, but if you hooked DeBrusk up to a lie detector and asked him that same question, he’d be sweating.
The emergence of Jake DeBrusk comes from not only Jake’s on-ice performance but the confidence that was instilled in him by Montgomery. By putting him on special teams, allowing him to play free, consistently playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, knowing that if he made a mistake, he wouldn’t be “sent to the doghouse.” Montgomery would allow him to grow, and it’s paid off massively, with DeBrusk putting up just under a point per game this season.
By allowing his defense to get involved in the offense, we’ve seen the emergence of a dynamic offense from both sides of the spectrum. This is where guys like McAvoy and Lindholm benefit greatly. They’re free to drive the play and bring more unpredictability to their game. McAvoy has 39 points in 43 games; almost a point-per-game player as a defenseman is phenomenal. Again, credit to Montgomery for allowing his players to be free.
The team is second in goals per game at 3.71, trailing the Oilers, led by generational talent Connor McDavid, who scores 3.76 per game. However, they lead the league in goals allowed per game at a dead 2.00. Much to the credit of goaltending tandem Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman but credit to Jim Montgomery’s defensive system as well. The second closest team is the Winnipeg Jets at 2.40 goals per game. The Bruins lead the league in goal differential by a massive margin at +92, with the second-closest team at +44. The Bruins are playing at historic levels.
Between Jim Montgomery’s ability to gel this locker room together and get Jake Debrusk’s confidence and production levels to the highest we’ve ever seen while also maintaining a historic start to the season with a core group of guys who were contemplating retirement, I believe Jim Montgomery should be highly considered as a Jack Adams Award favorite. Not only has he personally been through adversity, but he’s also taken accountability for it and vowed to be better. Jim Montgomery’s story is one of triumph and inspiration, don’t be surprised if he picks up some hardware during this off-season.