One year after taking himself out of the running for the Florida Panthers’ head coaching job, Jim Montgomery has found his way to the NHL.
As Chris Dilks of SBN College Hockey reported on Tuesday, the Dallas Stars will be announcing later this week that the 48-year-old Montgomery will be their new head coach, replacing Ken Hitchcock, who retired in April.
Montgomery, who played 122 NHL games, including nine with the Stars, has spent the last five seasons coaching in the college ranks with the Denver Pioneers, leading them to two Frozen Fours and the 2017 national title. He told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in March that “it would have to be a perfect opportunity” for him to uproot his family and leave his situation in Colorado.
The Stars are coming off a second straight season that ended without a playoff berth, but boast a roster with plenty of talent like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alex Radulov, Radek Faksa and John Klingberg. General manager Jim Nill will certainly be making more changes in the off-season, so Montgomery, who was also in the running for the New York Rangers’ job, can likely expect a refreshed roster when training camp opens in September.
“The process gives us a foundation of what our house should look like. If we tidy up those areas of our house, people are going to like what our house looks like on the ice.”
Montgomery likes “simple and boring.” He feels focusing on bigger things can make a team play nervously and not at their best, which is why he’ll likely be bringing “the process” to Dallas with him.
Inspired by Shawn Walsh, his head coach while at the University of Maine, the checklist for success in a game, as Montgomery wrote on The Coaches’ Site in 2016, includes winning 60 percent of face-offs, blocking shots, giving up at most three odd-man rushes, dishing out 50 hits, winning special teams and net front battles, and staying disciplined when it comes to committing penalties.
“If we’re four out of seven in a game, we’re probably going to win that game,” he wrote. “And if we’ve got five or six, the games actually become lopsided in our favour.”
The Stars won 52.5 percent of their face-offs, blocked 1,272 shots, delivered 1,861 hits, scored on 19.3 percent of their man advantages and killed off 80.8 percent of power plays faced last season. Implementing a new system and installing a new culture and approach will take time for any new head coach, but Montgomery’s Denver teams got better as their seasons went on. That kind of improvement is sorely needed in Dallas.