Stu Cowan: Jim Montgomery’s dominant Bruins buck NHL salary cap

Stu Cowan: Jim Montgomery’s dominant Bruins buck NHL salary cap

Breadcrumb Links Sports NHL Montreal Canadiens Hockey Inside Out Hockey

While Boston might rewrite the league’s record books, the Montreal native is writing his own story on how to make the most of a second chance.

Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery points from the bench during the third period against the San Jose Sharks in Boston on January 22, 2023. Photo by Steven Senne/AP Article Content

That wasn’t supposed to happen in commissioner Gary Bettman’s salary cap NHL.

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When Bettman locked players – again – resulting in the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season, his aim was to impose a hard salary cap to secure more money in owners’ pockets while creating parity at the within the league. At the start of the 2005–06 season, the salary cap was set at US$39 million per team and has since risen to US$82.5 million that season.

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The salary cap has allowed owners to protect themselves and their general managers from overspending, but parity isn’t working this season when it comes to the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins beat the Canadiens 4-2 Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, improving their record to 38-5-4 while becoming the fastest team in NHL history to reach 80 points in the standings in 47 matches. The Bruins had a 14-point lead atop the overall NHL standings after the game and were on course to finish the season with 140 points, which would break the record of 132 set by the Canadiens in 1976-77, when They had a 60-8-12 record en route to winning their second of four consecutive Stanley Cups.

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Bettman was at the Bell Center on Tuesday and was asked before the game if he was surprised at what the Bruins were able to do in a salary cap league.

“I think there was someone in the Boston Globe who wrote an apology to the general manager over the weekend because the speculation was that they weren’t going to be as good this year,” said Bettman. “Watching them was amazing. They play really well.

Boston Globe columnist Christopher L. Gasper wrote a column apologizing to Don Sweeney for doubting the Boston GM’s plans heading into this season.

“I wanted to write to let you know that I was wrong about your ability to build a Stanley Cup contender,” Gasper wrote.

Gasper added, “That Bruins team you built is a vulcanized rubber wrecking ball. I have canceled all vacation plans for June as a result.

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Gasper questioned Sweeney’s decision to fire head coach Bruce Cassidy after the Bruins lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs last season, replacing him with Jim Montgomery.

“Now I want turtle like Claude Lemieux,” Gasper wrote. “Your Bruins look as unstoppable as Wayne Gretzky on a breakaway.”

Montgomery has a strong connection to Montreal. He grew up in the city and started his hockey career as a rookie player with the East End Boys’ Club. Montgomery and Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes were one-season teammates with the St. Laurent Patriotes college team and Montgomery was the player the Canadiens acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the summer of 1994, when they traded captain Guy Carbonneau.

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Montgomery’s father, Jim Sr. – who died in 2015 – was president of a union at the Esso East Refinery where he worked and represented Canada as a boxer in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

While the Bruins could rewrite the NHL record books, Montgomery is writing his own story about how to make the most of a second chance. He was fired as head coach of the Dallas Stars in 2019 for “unprofessional conduct” which Montgomery said was related to his drinking problems and he entered a rehabilitation program.

Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said Montgomery is a great communicator who “always lets us know how he feels” and the coach let his players know how much Tuesday’s game was a return to the game for him. sources.

“I watched so many of those rivalry games when I was young growing up,” Montgomery said before the game. “Obviously at that time I wasn’t encouraging the B-ray, but now I strongly encourage the B-ray. It’ll be fun. I will have lots of family and friends here. Unfortunately, my 90 year old mother (Dorothy) doesn’t want to deal with the stairs, so she will sit at home and criticize me afterwards.

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There hasn’t been much to criticize about the Bruins. After Tuesday’s game, they were tied for first in the NHL in offense, first in defense, second in power play and first in shorthandedness. Their plus-83 goal differential was nearly double the Dallas Stars, who ranked second at plus-42.

The comparisons began with the 1976-77 Canadians.

“I think how dominant we are at both ends of the ice,” Montgomery said when asked to compare the two teams. “We can score. We can win 6-5, we can win 1-0. I think those are the parallels. And then Montreal had three dominant defenders (Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe), we have two dominant defenders (Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy). When you have an elite D corps, you can really control the game at both ends of the ice. These are the largest comparables I see.

Globe’s Gasper likes what he’s seen of the Bruins. He ended his apology column to Sweeney with, “See you at the parade.”

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