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Jim Montgomery and his ‘process’ reportedly heading to Dallas Stars

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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.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

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.

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“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.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Friday, as the Anaheim Ducks host the Dallas Stars at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

PROJECTED LINEUPS

STARS
Jamie BennTyler SeguinBrett Ritchie
Remi ElieRadek FaksaAlexander Radulov
Antoine RousselJason SpezzaMattias Janmark
Gemel SmithDevin ShoreTyler Pitlick

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg
Marc MethotGreg Pateryn
Dan HamhuisJulius Honka

Starting goalie: Mike McKenna

[‘Resilient’ Ducks look to extend win streak vs. Stars]

WATCH LIVE – 10 P.M. ET

DUCKS
Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry
Andrew CoglianoRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg
Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase
Jason ChimeraDerek GrantJ.T. Brown

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour
Marcus PetterssonAndy Welinski

Starting goalie: Ryan Miller

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild

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[CLICK HERE TO WATCH]

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn / Tyler Seguin / Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark / Radek Faksa / Tyler Pitlick

Remi Elie / Devin Shore / Brett Ritchie

Antoine Roussel / Jason Spezza / Gemel Smith

Esa Lindell / John Klingberg

Marc Methot / Stephen Johns

Dan Hamhuis / Greg Pateryn

Starting goalie: Kari Lehtonen

[Stars – Wild preview]

Minnesota Wild

Jason Zucker / Eric Staal / Mikael Granlund

Zach Parise / Mikko Koivu / Nino Niederreiter

Jordan Greenway / Matt Cullen / Charlie Coyle

Daniel Winnik / Joel Eriksson Ek / Marcus Foligno

Ryan Suter / Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin / Ryan Murphy

Nick Seeler / Nate Prosser

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

One reason for Dallas Stars’ struggles? Shaky drafting

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The narrative is becoming almost as much of a trope as the Capitals suffering playoff heartbreak or the Hurricanes not even getting to the postseason. Year after year, the Dallas Stars “win” the off-season, yet they frustrate as much as they titillate when the pucks drop.

For years, mediocre-to-putrid goaltending has been tabbed as the culprit. There’s no denying that there have been disappointments in that area, especially since they keep spending big bucks hoping to cure those ills.

[Once again, Stars’ hope hinge on Kari Lehtonen.]

Checking all the boxes

The thing with success in the NHL is that there is no “magic bullet.”

Sure, the Penguins lucked out in being putrid at the right times to land Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and other key players with lottery picks. Even so, they’ve also unearthed some gems later in drafts (Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel) and made shrewd trades (Phil Kessel is the gift that keeps giving). They’ve also had a keen eye when it comes to who to keep or not keep in free agency, generally speaking.

In other words, the best teams may stumble here or there, but they’re generally good-to-great in just about every area.

The Stars hit a grand slam in the Tyler Seguin trade, made a shrewd signing in Alex Radulov, and enjoyed some nice wins in other moves. You can nitpick the style elements of bringing back Ken Hitchcock, but there are pluses to adding the Hall of Famer’s beautiful hockey mind.

Beyond goaltending, the Stars’ struggles in drafting and/or developing players really seems to be holding them back.

Not feeling the draft

Now, that’s not to say that they never find nice players on draft weekend. After all, they unearthed Jamie Benn in the fifth round (129th overall) in 2007 and poached John Klingberg with a fifth-rounder, too (131st pick in 2010).

Still, first-round picks have not been friendly to this franchise. When they’ve managed to make contact, they’ve managed some base hits, but no real homers. (Sorry, Radek Faksa.)

The Athletic’s James Gordon (sub required) ranked the Stars at 28th of 30 NHL teams who’ve drafted from 2011-15, furthering the point:

Imagine how great the Stars would be — what with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov — had they managed to get another core piece or two with one of their many mid-first and second-round picks. Instead, they’ve nabbed mostly role players who don’t move the needle much.

Actually, it’s quite staggering just how far back the Stars’ struggles with first-rounders really goes. Ignoring 2017 first-rounder Miro Heiskanen (third overall) and 2016 first-rounder Riley Tufte (25th) as they’re particularly early in their development curves, take a look at the Stars’ run of first-rounders:

2015: Denis Gurianov, 12th overall, 1 NHL game
2014: Julius Honka, 14th, 53 GP
2013: Valeri Nichushkin, 10th, 166 GP; Jason Dickinson, 29th, 35 GP
2012: Radek Faksa, 13th, 196 GP
2011: Jamie Oleksiak, 14th, 179 GP
2010: Jack Campbell, 11th, 6 GP
2009: Scott Glennie, 8th, 1 GP
2008: No first
2007: No first
2006: Ivan Vishnevskiy, 27th, 5 GP
2005: Matt Niskanen, 28th, 792 GP

Yikes. Even if Gurianov and Honka come along, that group leaves … a lot to be desired. (And those struggles go back past 2014 and beyond, honestly.)

Blame scouting, development, or both, but the Stars aren’t supplementing high-end talent with the depth that often separates great from merely good.

This isn’t a call for perfection, either. Even a team with some high-profile whiffs can also get big breaks. Sure, the Boston Bruins passed on Mathew Barzal three times, but they also got steals in Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak.

 

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If the Stars want to break through as more than a fringe playoff team, “winning the off-season” will need to start in late June instead of early July.

And, hey, what better time to do that than when they’re hosting the next draft?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Pittsburgh Penguins

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Sunday, as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Dallas stars at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Stars

Mattias JanmarkTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov

Jamie BennRadek FaksaTyler Pitlick

Antoine RousselJason SpezzaBrett Ritchie

Remie Ellie — Jason DickinsonDevin Shore

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg

Dan HamhuisGreg Pateryn

Marc MethotStephen Johns

Starting goalie: Kari Lehtonen

Penguins

Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyConor Sheary

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Riley SheahanDerick BrassardPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklJosh JoorisCarter Rowney

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Jamie OleksiakJustin Schultz

Olli Maatta — Chad Rudwedel

Starting goalie: Casey DeSmith