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Perfect match: Stars find ideal fit in Montgomery

The new Dallas coach preaches puck possession and a relentless style of play

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

DALLAS -- Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said he would be patient in his search for a new head coach, indicating a lengthy process. But then, along came Jim Montgomery about two weeks ago.

"The minute I met him, I knew this was the guy that's going to be a fit for us," Nill said.

 

[A NEW ERA: Get to know new Stars coach Jim Montgomery | 'Monty' brings winning pedigree to Dallas | Photo gallery]

 

Stars CEO Jim Lites was on board, calling his talk with Montgomery the best job interview he'd ever had. And chats with others around the hockey world offered more encouraging perspective.

"As I started to call and talk to other people about this hire I never heard anything that wasn't glowing," Lites said. "Best kept secret in hockey, some pretty significant people told me."

Montgomery's hiring wasn't the best-kept secret. Rumors and reports started circulating about him heading to Dallas earlier this week. The Stars made it official at a press conference Friday morning at American Airlines Center.

Montgomery is the third head coach for Nill, who went with established veterans Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock with his first two hires but opted for a younger coach with no NHL experience this time around after Hitchcock retired following this past season. Nill noted the success of younger coaches such as Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay, Bruce Cassidy in Boston, and John Hynes in New Jersey.

Video: "It's a great day for my family"

"We said let's open our minds up here. We knew there were going to be some great veteran coaches out there, but we said do we have to evolve a little bit here?" Nill said. "We've seen where the game is going with some of these younger coaches. That brought [Montgomery] into the loop, and from there he did the rest."

Montgomery signed a multi-year deal to become the 23rd coach in franchise history and the eighth since the team moved to Dallas.

"This is an awesome day for the Montgomery family. This is a job that we wanted and are very glad it came to fruition," Montgomery said. "For our family, we loved our life in Denver, and I loved my job The only way I was going to move from a great position was for an opportunity that was better."

The 48-year-old Montgomery, who said he would go by "Monty" to avoid confusion with the other Jims in the organization, comes to Dallas after five seasons at the University of Denver where he posted a 125-57-26 record and led the Pioneers to the NCAA national championship in 2017. Before that he coached three seasons at Dubuque in the United States Hockey League, winning championships in 2011 and 2013. He was an assistant at RPI from 2006-10 and started in college coaching as a volunteer assistant with Notre Dame in 2005-06.

"He's built his resume up the right way, said Nill. "He's done the assistant coach in college, gone back to Tier 2 hockey and won championships, and gone to Denver and built one of the top programs in college hockey. It's about winning, and he's found a way to do it and especially a way to do it in today's game."

Montgomery, who is the fourth coach to go from college directly to the NHL, takes over a Stars team that has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and three of the past four. It's a team that is expected to inject some youth into the lineup next season to go along with its key veterans. And Montgomery worked to get on the good side of one key veteran at Friday's press conference.

Video: Jim Montgomery addresses the media for the first time

"When I look at this lineup, it has everything you want. It has star power," said Montgomery, who then looked at Stars captain Jamie Benn who was sitting in the front row at Friday's press conference. "I am going to kiss your ass for the first time here." (laughter)

Montgomery then continued.

"You have Benn, (Tyler) Seguin, (Alexander) Radulov, (John) Klingberg, (Ben) Bishop," he said. "You have depth, size, skill, and speed at every position. I look forward to getting to know everybody, and I look forward to working with them."

The new Dallas coach, a Montreal native, outlined for fans what they can expect to see when the team hits the ice next season.

"It's going to be relentless," he said. "We are going to be a puck possession team, and we are going to try to make plays everywhere on the ice. When we don't have the puck, we are going to pressure you so we can get it back and make more plays."

Montgomery is a process-oriented coach. At Denver, his process included a list of seven objectives for games including hits, faceoff wins, limiting odd-man rushes, commitment to blocking shots, winning special teams, winning the net-front battle, and taking no undisciplined penalties. He'll adjust the list as he makes the move to the NHL.

Video: Razor and Montgomery chat in Dallas

"There are keys to the game that give the team and individuals a pretty simple understanding of what we value as a team that will give us success," Montgomery said. "In college I did seven. We only have 34 regular season games, here we have a lot more, so I will probably move it down to five. I'll have my four mainstays and then rotate in one every game depending on who our opponent is."

Montgomery, a star player at the University of Maine in the early 1990s, played 12 years professionally including 122 games in the NHL. He spent two seasons in the Stars organization and played nine games with Dallas, eight in 2001-02 and one in 2002-03. That pro experience should help as he makes the jump from coaching college players to coaching pros.

"You can always draw from your playing days. When I was in the American League, I was a go-to guy and when I was in the NHL I was patting guys to get over the boards and go get us a goal. Watching that helped me formulate my ideas," Montgomery said. "As far as how I treat players, I believe you treat men like men. Even in junior hockey I treated them like men. I've got three simple team rules: be on time; be prepared; do the right thing to represent the Dallas Stars. If you treat guys with respect and they know where the lines are and there are going to be repercussions if they don't do the right things, I think they respect that and fall in line."

And the Stars are hoping things will start falling into line as they move forward with Jim Montgomery as the new bench boss. A coach they believe is ready to make the jump to the NHL.

"When we started to analyze the NHL, we saw the success of some of the younger coaches," Nill said. "When we went through this process, I just think who was Scotty Bowman? Somebody gave him a chance. Who was Mike Babcock? Somebody gave him a chance.

"This is a guy who deserves a chance, and we think he is going to do the job for us."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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