6:53 PM: The Boston Globe’s Matt Porter has reported on the hire more definitively than the prior reports, tweeting that a “source with direct knowledge” of the Bruins’ coaching search “confirms” that the team will hire Montgomery.
6:51 PM: With today’s hiring of Derek Lalonde, we are inching closer to the end of this year’s head coaching hires cycle. One of the remaining open jobs is in Boston, where the Bruins are seeking a replacement for Bruce Cassidy, who they fired earlier in the summer. According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN Hockey, “all signs point” to Jim Montgomery being hired as the team’s next head coach. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet seconds LeBrun’s reporting, tweeting that there is “growing momentum” around Montgomery being hired in Boston. ESPN’s Kevin Weekes adds that “if/when a deal gets over the line, it’s roughly in the neighborhood” of three years in length at a $2MM annual salary. The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford confirmed Friedman’s reporting on there being momentum but added that there is no offer on the table yet from Boston’s side to Montgomery.
Assuming this widely-reported hire ends up being made official, it’s a bit of a surprising one, as the Bruins had been interviewing candidates such as David Quinn and Jay Leach, coaches with deep ties to either Boston hockey or the Bruins organization. Montgomery does not have such deep ties to the Bruins, and the Montreal native did not play in the Boston area during his 122-game NHL career. He did have an extremely successful career at the University of Maine, which is technically within New England, but still, his ties to the area are dwarfed by the other reported finalists.
Montgomery is an intriguing candidate in part because of why he’s in this position in the first place. After an extremely successful tenure at the helm of the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, winning two championships in three years, he left to coach the NCAA’s University of Denver. There, Montgomery won the 2017 NCAA National Championship.
That success at Denver led Montgomery to his first NHL head coaching job, taking the reins of a Dallas Stars franchise that had missed the playoffs the year before. Montgomery’s player-focused, upbeat coaching style immediately connected with the Stars players, and he went 43-32-7 and won a playoff series. The next year, though, Montgomery was fired early in the season for what the team called “unprofessional conduct.” After his firing, Montgomery made his struggles with alcohol abuse public, and began the process of rehabilitation.
His recovery was successful enough for him to earn another chance to coach in the NHL, this time as an assistant on Craig Berube’s St. Louis Blues staff. There, Montgomery coached a powerplay that rocketed to among the league’s best, and it’s on the back of that success that he gets his second chance at being an NHL head coach, now in Boston.
For the Bruins, the hire of Montgomery, if finalized, represents a significant departure from Cassidy’s style of management. Cassidy’s more demanding style reportedly wore on the Bruins’ players, and played a role in his firing despite all the success he had. Montgomery’s style is a departure from Cassidy’s, as he is by all reports a highly approachable, player-first bench boss. It remains to be seen if the team’s swap of Cassidy for Montgomery, and the stylistic changes that result from that swap, is ultimately successful. But what we do know now is that this move, at the very least, gives a coach who was once viewed as a rising star the second chance at coaching that he’s worked so hard to earn.