(Jim Montgomery, seen on the far right at the press conference following Denver’s 2017 NCAA championship. Photo credit: Bob Snow, Bruins Daily)
Amid a tumultuous off-season, the Boston Bruins hit a home run following their coaching search.
The summer of turmoil began in early June when Don Sweeney fired Bruce Cassidy after six seasons behind the bench. By month’s end, team President Cam Neely signed the embattled GM to a multi-year contract extension.
With his mixed history of trades, free-agent signees and subpar drafts, Sweeney couldn’t afford to whiff on his coaching hire. This time, he managed to land a popular choice within the league’s coaching ranks.
“Jim has a winning history, and throughout the interview process he conveyed his ability to connect with all types of players while also demanding that his teams play with structure,” Sweeney said of Montgomery via press release. “We are excited for Jim to begin to make his imprint on our team.”
Montgomery compiled a 61-43-10 record in his season and a half with the Dallas Stars. During his first season in 2019, he guided Dallas to a Game 7 second-round appearance against the St. Louis Blues, ultimately falling in double overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup champs.
The Stars fired Montgomery in December 2019 citing “unprofessional conduct.” Montgomery later admitted to fighting an alcohol addiction.
A couple of years removed from his recovery, Montgomery landed an assistant coaching gig with the Blues during the 2021-22 season. Nearly a year later, while celebrating his 53rd birthday, he earned his second chance as an NHL head coach.
Montgomery has won at every coaching stop dating back to his days at the USHL. He began his coaching career with a pair of Clark Cup victories in three years (in 2010-11 and 2012-13) with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. His success at the USHL brought him to the University of Denver in 2013-14. Montgomery’s five-year college hockey tenure resulted in back-to-back Frozen Four appearances in 2016 and 2017 and a National Championship in ’17.
The former University of Maine standout received praise at every coaching stop. He’s considered a true players coach with a keen sense of player development. The likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Danton Heinen, Mike Matheson, Troy Terry and Matt O’Connor (to name a few) all thrived under Montgomery in the USHL and college ranks.
Montgomery’s development philosophy carried over into Dallas, where top prospects like defenseman Miro Heiskanen and forward Roope Hintz turned into a bonafide top-four blue-liner and top-six centerman, respectively. In St. Louis, he oversaw the league’s second-ranked power play and helped Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou produce breakout campaigns in 2021-22.
His track record speaks for itself. But, like Cassidy and Claude Julien, Montgomery faces a tough challenge getting the most out of Sweeney’s makeshift roster.
Patrice Bergeron’s reported return provides the Bruins with needed stability. Yet, the team will likely spend the first month or two of the new season hoping to tread water. Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, Mike Reilly and Matt Grzelcyk will all miss time to start the 2022-23 campaign following their respective off-season surgeries.
The Bruins only have a little north of $2.3 million in projected salary cap space this off-season. They desperately need a second-line center to have any shot at contending again under the Bergeron regime. Barring any external improvements, Montgomery will try to get something out of Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle or maybe even Jack Studnicka, to finally balance out Boston’s top-six.
Regardless, Neely expressed concerns about Boston’s offense following the Carolina series, specifically regarding the 5v5 and power-play production. Montgomery’s system fits how the Bruins modeled offensive philosophy.
Montgomery checked all the Bruins’ boxes. Now it’s up to Sweeney and Neely to set him up for success.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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