The Boston Bruins made a shock move following the 2022/23 NHL season firing coach Bruce Cassidy after six seasons in charge and replacing him with Jim Montgomery.
While the Bruins enter the new season with a new face behind the bench, the on-ice side will have a more familiar feel with long-time Bruin David Krejci returning following a year away and Captain Patrice Bergeron committing to stay.
|What:||NHL Season 2022/23|
|Where:||USA and Canada|
|When:||7th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch:||ESPN+, Star+, NHL.TV & bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds:||COL Avalanche +425, TOR Maple Leafs +800, FLA Panthers +900, TB Lightning +1000, CAR Hurricanes +1100|
The Bruins are a team who pride themselves on playoff success so while Cassidy took them to the dance six times including a Final appearance in 2019, it wasn't enough losing his job to 53-year-old Montgomery.
Montgomery last coached in the NHL from 2018-20 going 60-43-10 with the Dallas Stars and said he will aim to make the Bruins a team known for their effort and execution, and improve their offence which cost them big in the playoffs.
Boston finished fourth in the Atlantic Division last season going 51-26-5 which equalled 107 points.
They aren't in need of major surgery, but do need to find answers to the drop of production in the post-season, going from 3.09 goals per game in the regular season (15th in the NHL) to 2.86 in the playoffs which was the main reason for their seven-game exit to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round.
To the relief of the Bruins, Captain Patrice Bergeron has decided to extend his stay in Boston to a 19th year.
Despite turning 37 in the July, the centreman remains one of the best in his position in the league and a crucial part of the Bruins' plans.
In 73 regular season games last season, Bergeron registered 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists) and was named the Frank J.Selke Trophy winner for a record fifth time.
His defensive responsibility, and ability to neutralise opponents' best players helped Boston to record the fourth fewest goals against per-game with 2.66, the fewest expected goals against per 60 at even strength with 1.93, and the ninth-ranked penalty kill at 81.3 percent.
In the playoffs he was also one of the team's top performers contributing seven points (three goals, four assists) in the seven games.
The Bruins benefited in 2021/22 from a strong season by their star players. Brad Marchand led the team for points with 80 (32 goals, 48 assists) in 70 games, David Pastrnak reached 40 goals (plus 37 assists) in 72 games and along with Bergeron, Taylor Hall bagged more than 60 points which included 20 goals.
Beyond that, though, there were just three 40-point scorers and one 30-point provider up front, and the issue was further highlighted in the playoffs as Hall particularly struggled to maintain his regular season form.
Putting Jake DeBrusk with Marchand and Bergeron on the top line helped and Boston will hope they have solved the second-line dilemma by bringing back Krejci for a 16th season after he spent a year away in his native Czechia.
Krejci scored 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) with HC Olomouc last season and 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 2019/20 before his departure from the Bruins.
In that season, he formed a strong partnership with Hall and if the two can combine similar again, the Bruins will feel as though their top six should be a match for most in the league.
Similarly, Boston boast a net-minding duo which rivals the majority in the NHL with Linus Ullmark and impressive second year pro Jeremy Swayman vying for the number one position.
29-year-old Ullmark went 39-26-10 with a .917 save-percentage and 2.45 goals-against-average (GAA) and 23-year-old Swayman 39-23-14 with a .914 save-percentage and 2.41 GAA.
Montgomery faces an early challenge as Bruins coach, heading into the season without Marchand and two of their top defencemen Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk who all underwent off-season surgery.
Hampus Lindholm will be expected to step-up and prove himself as a top defensive defenceman as will Brandon Carlo, Mike Reilly, and Derek Forbort.
Despite their absence, the Bruins should have enough to stay afloat until they return when they will be expected to push on and book their playoff spot.
Whether it be Bergeron, Krejci and Marchand trying to win a second championship together in the twilight of their career, or Montgomery aiming to prove himself worthy of a contender coaching role, there's plenty of motivation within the Bruins dressing room.
The key pieces are nearing their end and the bargain contract of Pastrnak runs out next summer, and ultimately it feels like a last chance saloon for the Bruins to prove their cup credentials and if they fail, it could be a long time coming again as the pressure to tear it down and start again will begin to rise.