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Montgomery named coach of Stars

Replaces retired Hitchcock after five seasons at University of Denver @NHLdotcom

Jim Montgomery was hired as coach of the Dallas Stars on Friday.

The 48-year-old has coached the past five seasons at the University of Denver and won the NCAA championship in 2017. He replaces Ken Hitchcock, who retired April 13.

Montgomery said he wants the Stars to push the pace and pressure opponents.

"For the Dallas Stars fan, if you can think of an adjective of what we're going to look like, it's going to be relentless," Montgomery said. "We're going to be a puck-possession team and we're going to try and make plays everywhere on the ice. When we don't have the puck, we're going to pressure you so we can get it back and make more plays.

"I think you look at the championship teams that have won in the NHL. ... The teams play a certain way. There's structure to their game but there's creativity and flair to it too. You have to let horses run. Everyone should look the same when we don't have the puck, and when we do have the puck, everyone should play to their strengths."

Montgomery is the fourth coach to go directly from college to his first NHL job, joining Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who came from the University of North Dakota in 2015; Bob Johnson, who went to the Calgary Flames from the University of Wisconsin in 1982; and Ned Harkness, who took over the Detroit Red Wings in 1970 after coaching at Cornell.

Among the NHL players who played for Montgomery are New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher, Boston Bruins forward Danton Heinen, Anaheim Ducks forward Troy Terry, and Florida Panthers forward Henrik Borgstrom.

"I really enjoyed him as a coach. He taught me a lot as a player," Heinen said. "I think he's going to do a great job there. Really happy for him."

Montgomery said he's eager to get started.

"When I look at this lineup, I really get excited. It has everything you want," he said. "It has star power. [Forward Jamie] Benn, [center Tyler] Seguin, you have [forward Alexander] Radulov, you have [defenseman John] Klingberg, you have [goaltender Ben] Bishop. You have depth, you have skill, you have size, and you have speed at every position."

Montgomery spoke with the Los Angeles Kings prior to them hiring John Stevens on April 23, 2017, and had two interviews with the Florida Panthers before they hired Bob Boughner on June 12, according to The Denver Post.

Montgomery played pro hockey for 12 seasons, including 122 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks and Stars.

"The minute I met him I knew this was a guy that was going to be a fit for us," Dallas general manager Jim Nill said. "I believe in his values. He's a great family man. There's a lot that goes into this. It's not just being a hockey coach. It's being big in the community. He checked off all the boxes.

"In the end, it's dealing with people. For the last five years we've had the fifth-youngest team in the NHL, and that's a stat people don't understand sometimes. When I interviewed [Jim] here I knew he'd been through that route. It's dealing with younger players, and on top of it winning, and he's done that. He's a guy that's been on our radar screen. ... He's done the assistant coach in college, he's gone back to Tier II hockey and won championships. He's gone to Denver and built one of the top programs in college hockey. It's about winning and he's found a special way to do in today's game.

"Who was Scotty Bowman? Somebody gave him a chance. Who was Mike Babcock? Somebody gave him a chance. This is a guy that deserves a chance and I think he's going to do the job for us."

Dallas was 42-32-8 in the only season of Hitchcock's second stint with the Stars, finishing three points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. He previously coached them from 1995-2002, winning the Stanley Cup in 1999.

Hitchcock, who remains with the Stars as a consultant, won 823 NHL games, third in NHL history behind Scotty Bowman (1,244) and Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville (884). Hitchcock is fourth in games coached (1,536), behind Bowman (2,141), Quenneville (1,621) and Al Arbour (1,607).

"Ken Hitchcock, what a great career," Montgomery said. "Easily one of the best NHL coaches of all time and I wish him nothing but success. One of the brightest minds to ever coach in this game at the NHL level."

Stars president Jim Lites said he was impressed with Montgomery from the first moment they spoke during a recent dinner, which Nill attended, as part of the interview process.

"Jim and I hadn't met before," Lites said, "and I've got to tell you, in the two-hour dinner we had together, I walked away and told my wife, 'That was the best job interview I've ever been involved in.' 
"This was a guy I could relate to, I thought the fans could relate to, certainly our players would. He was intelligent, articulate, funny, friendly, hard, has a family and is engaged with them and engaged with his players. As I started to call and talk to other people about this hire, I never heard anything that wasn't glowing. 'The best kept secret in hockey' some pretty significant people told me." correspondent Craig Morgan contributed to this report.

Photos courtesy of Dallas Stars

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