The Boston Bruins are beginning to zero in on a group of head coaching candidates now that reality has begun to set in with fired bench boss Bruce Cassidy getting a brand new head coaching gig with the Vegas Golden Knights.
According to a report from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, the Boston Bruins have lined up five interviews for their vacant head coaching spot. Most of the candidates skew toward hockey coaches with college hockey or AHL coaching experience that have largely dealt with younger players in the recent past.
No big shock there after Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney talked about the qualities he was looking at for Bruce Cassidy’s replacement.
“I’m still going to be a process-driven and a structure guy. I do believe that we can continue to evolve in involving our defense. We’ve been an upper echelon power play and penalty killing team. I think that needs to remain. You’re seeing that rear its head in the playoffs. You watch Florida have a ridiculously good power play during the regular season and it sputtered in the playoffs, and it probably cost them a little bit. So, I think those are difference makers as you’re going along,” said Sweeney. “I don’t dictate how the refereeing is going to go but I think you’re seeing a trend in that area that special teams are certainly playing a big part of it, and the goaltending is going to be a part of it.
“The coach has to have the communication skills to be able to bridge that gap with older and younger players. I think that’s paramount now with integration. As I said, in a perfect world, all players are overcooked or overbaked [before they reach the NHL]. Kenny Holland and my peer group have used that terminology. And we won’t be any different. But I go back to the [Fabian] Lysells of the world. Only when they’re ready. I mean, David Pastrnak is a great example of that a number of years ago. We didn’t necessarily believe he was ready, but he came in and scored against Philadelphia and next thing you know, he’s in our lineup for the rest of the year and [being] impactful moving forward. Those will be the challenges that we try and find the balance of development and an infusion of talent, and the new coach is going to have to be able to communicate and bridge that gap from older players, communicating with them and holding them to a standard that I think we all feel is necessary. In this town, it is necessary to hold a team to a competitive standard. That coach has to walk that walk.”
One of the interviews will go to current Boston Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco, who has previous NHL head coaching experience with the Colorado Avalanche and did a good job stepping in for Cassidy when he was sidelined due to a bout of COVD during the 2021-22 regular season.
Sacco spent four seasons behind the Avalanche bench and has been an assistant coach with the Boston Bruins since 2014, dating back to the Claude Julien era in Boston.
According to the report, Sacco, former Providence Bruins head coach and current Seattle Kraken assistant Jay Leach, former BU and New York Rangers head coach David Quinn, former Denver University head coach Jim Montgomery and former P-Bruins assistant coach Spencer Carbery have all been lined up for interviews with he Black and Gold.
Boston Hockey Now had previously confirmed several days ago that both Leach and Montgomery were set to get interviews.
“Both guys are definitely in the mix,” said a source to Boston Hockey Now earlier this week.
The 52-year-old Montgomery has been an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues for the last couple of seasons after being fired by the Dallas Stars in his second season as head coach due to “unprofessional conduct.” Montgomery later admitted to a struggle with alcohol that was behind his dismissal and was addressed once things didn’t work out in Dallas.
The most interesting name to be omitted: Providence College head coach Nate Leaman. The Friars head coach is highly regarded by Boston Bruins management, but Leaman just recently signed a long-term extension to stick around with the Providence program. One could see why a college hockey coach with tons of security might not be too anxious to jump into a Boston Bruins situation that looks like it’s going to get much, much worse before it begins to get better.
Interestingly, Quinn was also in the Colorado Avalanche organization at the same time as Sacco as the AHL head coach and an assistant coach on Sacco’s staff during his final season with the Avs coaching players like Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson and Matt Duchene.
Carbery spent this past season as an assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs where he worked on Toronto’s vaunted power play, an NHL gig after serving three years as head coach for the AHL’s Hershey Bears after one season working for the P-Bruins coaching staff.
There’s currently no timetable for the Boston Bruins to hire a head coach, particularly since they don’t seem to be in the running for any of the big-name coaches still available after Cassidy, and reportedly John Tortorella to the Flyers, have landed NHL jobs for next season.