Amid one of the busiest weeks of their summer, the Boston Bruins officially welcomed new head coach Jim Montgomery with Monday’s press conference.
Montgomery’s hire comes weeks after general manager Don Sweeney fired the popular Bruce Cassidy after his six seasons behind the Boston bench. An ensuing contract extension for the embattled GM from team President Cam Neely only amplified the fanbase’s hostility following another early playoff exit in May.
Montgomery’s arrival, however, drew some rare positive reviews on social media. Yet, the Bruins will have little room to improve their roster entering the beginning of free agency on Wednesday.
The Bruins only have a hare over $2.3 million of salary cap space to work with. But they may have their top-six solutions intact following some positive developments.
With that in mind, here are a few takeaways following Montgomery’s introductory presser.
Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are trending toward decisions
The Bruins’ remaining priorities may rest on bringing back a pair of old reliables.
Sweeney confirmed the Bruins continue their discussions with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
Bergeron reportedly began negotiations with Sweeney on his desired return last month. Meanwhile, Krejci reportedly began talking with the Bruins’ brass upon returning to the U.S. after spending last season in his native Czech Republic.
“We’re still waiting for Patrice’s word, although the news is positive,” Boston CEO Charlie Jacobs said. “Fingers crossed that he returns.”
Bergeron didn’t envision playing for any other team following the team’s breakup day. Krejci’s situation isn’t as simple, given his potential of interested suitors.
Even with the two centerman likely signing short-term deals, Sweeney will need to shed salary to accompany Krejci and Bergeron. But the Bruins’ GM said he’ll do everything in their power to bring Krejci back.
“We’ve had numerous conversations,” Sweeney said, “and I will do everything I can to bring him back.”
Bergeron, the longest-tenured Bruin, will play for his fifth different coach if he continues his career. A Krejci reunion would mark his fourth bench boss in Boston.
Citing accountability, Montgomery emphasizes a “we culture.”
Montgomery took in a Red Sox-Yankees game upon his arrival. But he hasn’t fully settled into his new digs.
As he continues to adjust to his new team, the former University of Maine standout has reached out to half of the current crop of Bruins. He had nothing but rave reviews regarding his initial interactions.
“I’ve probably touched base with over half of the roster,” Montgomery said. “It’s been very positive in the sense that I’ve been very impressed with the team-first attitude that’s emulating from the players.”
The first player Montgomery spoke to? None other than Boston’s captain.
“It was enlightening,” Montgomery said of his first dialogue with Bergeron. “I felt like I was talking to a coach and not a player in the way he thinks about the team first, thinks about ways he can get better and thinking about ways to get better. So I was very impressed. It was a very open and honest conversation on how he’s excited on what the Bruins family can do and how I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Under Bergeron’s leadership and previous captains, including Zdeno Chara, the Bruins emphasized a team-first culture.
With Bergeron’s impending return and Montgomery at the helm, the Bruins’ “we culture” continues with a coach who stresses communicating via a two-way street.
“I think you have to listen, and I prefer to listen before I speak. And then I turn it into what is best for the team after I listen to suggestions or ideas,” Montgomery said. “We’re always going to be in this together. It’s going to be a ‘we culture.'”
The ‘we culture’ may bring another round of initial success. But the Bruins’ long-term direction remains in flux.
Charlie Jacobs defended Sweeney and Neely’s decision to fire Cassidy
Indeed, the Bruins developed a consistent string of success with Neely’s arrival to the front office before the 2007-08 season. Under Neely’s watch, the team made the playoffs in all but two seasons and hoisted the Cup in 2011.
The Bruins made a couple more appearances in the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 and 2019. Yet, they’ve stagnated in the three seasons following their disheartening Game 7 loss to the St. Louis Blues 37 months ago.
The Tampa Bay Lightning ended the Bruins’ season inside the Toronto playoff bubble in 2020. The New York Islanders handed Boston another second-round loss a year later. Another early exit, this time a first-round setback at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, prompted Sweeney to remove Cassidy and replace him with Montgomery.
Citing Boston’s record over the past decade, Charlie Jacobs defended Neely and Sweeney’s decision to switch bench bosses.
“The Boston Bruins have been to the Stanley Cup Final three times in eleven years during Cam Neely’s tenure. And I want to say we have somewhere around a .600-plus winning percentage under our general manager’s tenure,” Jacobs said.
“The head coach is the responsibility of the general manager, in our opinion, and it has to be accountable for that. And likewise, the President is accountable to the general manager. So if they come to us and they say, ‘Hey, listen, I think this might be in the best interest,’ we’re of course going to follow their lead. They’re empowered to make those decisions. It’s not our job to interfere with them, but to rather empower them to make those type of decisions and support them.”
The younger Jacobs made it clear: the buck stops with Neely and Sweeney. And the organization doesn’t appear interested in rebuilding anytime soon.
Yet, the Bruins can’t afford to languish longer with first and second-round exits. They’ll need to show progress rather quickly to remain in the league’s upper echelon. And they’re all hoping Montgomery can bring them back to the NHL’s promised land.
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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