Dallas Stars: Assessing Jim Montgomery’s Simple Coaching Style

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08: Jim Montgomery head coach of the Denver Pioneers talks behind the bench during the 2017 NCAA Div I Men's Ice Hockey Championships at the United Center on April 8, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08: Jim Montgomery head coach of the Denver Pioneers talks behind the bench during the 2017 NCAA Div I Men's Ice Hockey Championships at the United Center on April 8, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images) /

The word on the street is that the Dallas Stars will announce Jim Montgomery as their newest head coach on Friday. Considering he is currently a college coach, what will he bring to the Stars to make them successful?

Jim Montgomery will be the newest head coach of the Dallas Stars. At least, that’s what the rumor mill has been swirling around since Wednesday afternoon.

Ever since Ken Hitchcock announced his retirement from coaching in a letter on April 13, GM Jim Nill has been on the hunt. The Dallas Stars needed a new coach for the second time in one year and Nill had to come up with an answer. And it needed to be a pretty stellar answer.

The Stars missed the playoffs for the second season in a row in 2017-18 after a monumental collapse to close the year. In his first and only season back, Hitchcock proved to be a temporary bandaid. But he did not solve the Stars’ biggest problem: getting back into the postseason.

Hitchcock did contribute in various areas, though. He revitalized the Stars’ penalty kill, advanced the all-around games of multiple Dallas players, and brought a new mentality to the defense. But after losing eight games in a row in mid-March and falling out of a playoff spot, there was no more room for error.

More from Blackout Dallas

Upon starting the search for a new head coach, Nill was determined to complete an advanced search. The Stars GM took into account both veteran coaches as well as coaches with no NHL experience whatsoever and compiled a list as a result. And though the process was expected to be slow and in-depth, Nill obviously pounced for a reason. Maybe it was because of increased interest from other NHL teams, or perhaps it was because Nill found the perfect fit.

Chris Dilks of SBNation College Hockey first reported Montgomery and the Stars’ intentions on May 1. By May 2, the Dallas media was all over it and on May 4, the announcement is expected to be made official.

If the reports are true and Montgomery is heading to the Dallas Stars, what is he bringing to the table? In other words, what is he known for as a head coach? What makes him so successful? What makes him the best candidate for the job, at least in Nill’s eyes?

Montgomery has spent the last five years of his career as the head coach of the University of Denver Pioneers in the NCAA. Under his watch, the Pioneers have turned into one of the most respected and feared college hockey teams. They own a combined record of 125-57-26 with Montgomery behind the bench, including a 23-10-8 record this past season that helped Denver to the “Elite Eight” of the NCAA DI Championship before losing to Ohio State.

Last year, however, Montgomery and the Pioneers ran the table and defeated Minnesota-Duluth in the finals to claim the championship.

Prior to the stop in Denver, Montgomery coached and served as GM of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL from 2010-2013. In that role, he was a two-time champion with a record of 118-45-21.

Live Feed

Bruins toughest roster decisions going into 2023-24 season
Bruins toughest roster decisions going into 2023-24 season /

Causeway Crowd

  • Boston Bruins win 3 big awards at NHL Awards Gala: Thoughts & reactionsChowder and Champions
  • Bruins Head Coach Jim Montgomery's Decisions Led to Depressing DefeatCauseway Crowd
  • Jim Montgomery Records 100th Victory Against His Former TeamCauseway Crowd
  • Boston Bruins are so good they're too good to be trueChowder and Champions
  • Announcing the 2022-23 Boston Bruins Mid-Season AwardsCauseway Crowd
  • It’s obvious that Montgomery knows how to win, specifically in the minor leagues. Whether that success can immediately translate to the NHL isn’t known just yet, but he definitely knows how to get his teams moving in the right direction.

    So what is it exactly that he does that helps him and his teams find this success?

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve read through various reports and stories about Montgomery (including the great Sean Shapiro’s profile on him) and watched game and highlight footage from his Denver team in various games. And after digging through all of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that Montgomery’s style is unique, yet simple. But boy, is it fun to watch.

    Montgomery is known by his players and associates for building a strong culture and relationship with his team. He strives for his team to be close and trusting of each other and makes sure that he is a connected member of that team. While he still makes sure to take on the role and persona of a head coach, he is also known for getting on a similar level as his players and acting like a member of the team. That’s hard to find in coaches nowadays.

    The 48-year-old is known for the details, though. He studies his opponents in extensive film sessions and betters his team at the same time. If it involves a small facet of the game that might give his team a slight advantage, you can be assured that he will study it and use it to his advantage.

    He’s also known for trusting his “process” and keeping it simple. His process involves seven different key components of any hockey game that he wants his team to “win.” If they can win half of the battles, he is confident that his team will typically win the game. And if they win more than half of the battles, watch out. It’s his way of keeping his team focused on their mission on a simple scale.

    The Process involves these seven aspects of a typical hockey game:

    1. 50 hits in a game
    2. Win 60 percent of face-offs
    3. Give up three or less odd-man rushes
    4. Commit to blocking shots
    5. Win special teams
    6. Win the net front battle
    7. Take zero undisciplined penalties

    Seems simple enough, right? That’s what Montgomery is all about. Simple and boring, as he said in an article he wrote for The Coaches Site.

    The thing that sticks out most about Montgomery’s coaching style is that he preaches a quick and fierce style of play that involves focusing on every detail of the game. Let’s break down his style by looking at each part of his overall team.


    When I turned on the championship game between Denver and Minnesota-Duluth in 2017 to get a good first glimpse of Montgomery’s team, one thing immediately stood out: the Pioneers offense.

    Live Feed

    The Chicago Blackhawks Should Acquire Taylor Hall from the Boston Bruins
    The Chicago Blackhawks Should Acquire Taylor Hall from the Boston Bruins /

    Blackhawk Up

  • 2023 team report cards: Dallas Stars fall short of Cup FinalPuck Prose
  • NHL best bets today (Bet this Tyler Seguin prop for Game 6)FanSided
  • Sleeping in Seattle-Kraken Sleepwalk Through Game 2Kraken Chronicle
  • Boston Bruins Recap: Chemistry Lab Line Explodes for Bs WinCauseway Crowd
  • Blackhawks: Trading for Tyler SeguinBlackhawk Up
  • They were quick, aggressive, owned a valiant forecheck, and created plenty of quality chances. Through the first 5:42, the Pioneers were outshooting the Bulldogs 9-0. Don’t forget that this is the championship game that we’re talking about.

    The Denver forwards played a high speed and high intensity style. They moved the puck around the zone well, kept possession in a calm manner and moved it around deep, and found a way to consistently put the puck on the net from the slot and other high-danger scoring areas.

    When they had the puck in the offensive zone, they played with sincere and powerful possession. It almost looked as though they were playing “Monkey in the Middle” with the defense as they passed and skated around with the puck while waiting for a lane to open. If they had the puck, it was near impossible to get it back without play stopping.

    And when they didn’t have the puck in the offensive zone, they were quick to regain possession. Their forwards would play heavy and physical on the forecheck while the defenders closed off open areas at the blue line. The Pioneers forced the opponent to make a mistake and then found a way to capitalize on it.

    The forwards were speedy and always scanning the ice for open shots and opportunities. In addition, defensemen were also allowed to take chances on offense if those chances presented themselves.

    One of the most impressive parts of Montgomery’s offense was that all five skaters seemed to be moving constantly. Everyone had a role on the ice and each one was determined to fill it. They didn’t do anything extra or strenuous; all they did was fill their role and contribute to the team’s success in a panic-free style.

    More from Analysis

    Adding onto that non-passive style, each player was quick and efficient in their decision-making. From the goaltender out, each player was always thinking about the next stride. If they had the puck, they were ready to do whatever was necessary to advance it. Whether that carrying it themselves or deferring to an awaiting teammate to avoid a forecheck or back check, each player seemed ready to make the right move at a moment’s notice.

    In the 2017-18 season, the Pioneers finished ninth in college hockey in scoring offense at 3.29 goals per game.

    Speed and possession were primary positives noted in the footage I watched, and those are two positive factors that could greatly benefit the Dallas Stars. The Stars are a team overflowing with speed and handling skills, and those are strengths that Montgomery can further exploit. Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza come to mind as just a few forwards who could fit incredibly well in this kind of system, as well as speedy young forwards like Gemel Smith and Remi Elie.

    The Stars offense took a step back from their usual hyper levels this past season as they adapted to Hitchcock’s defensive style. With Montgomery, Dallas could find themselves bouncing back to their usual ways sooner rather than later.


    A glaring issue in the Stars’ recent history has been their efforts on defense. It’s been a mixture of bad coaching, poorly crafted lineups, and a lack of help from the forwards in the defensive zone. In Hitchcock’s one season, he found a way to turn the Dallas defense back into a legitimate and respected contender.

    It will now be up to Montgomery to continue breeding that success and growth. And if he can translate what he’s done with Denver, it shouldn’t be difficult. After all, the Pioneers owned the fifth-lowest goals against average in college hockey this past season at 2.10 GA/GP.

    Live Feed

    Toronto Maple Leafs: 6 Remaining Questions Entering 2023-24
    Toronto Maple Leafs: 6 Remaining Questions Entering 2023-24 /

    Editor In Leaf

  • We Have to Hold Off Judging the Toronto Maple Leafs OffseasonEditor In Leaf
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Dumba Signs for Less than John KlingbergEditor In Leaf
  • Toronto Maple Leafs upgrades and season outlookPuck Prose
  • Are the Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Favorites After Additions?Puck Prose
  • Toronto Maple Leafs Still Looking to Upgrade Their DefenseEditor In Leaf
  • The Denver defense is built on mobile skaters that can quickly and effectively move the puck. Once the Pioneers regain the puck in the defensive zone, it is up to them on how to get the puck out. Montgomery trusts his players to make the right decision, and it pays off.

    If there is an opportunity and the defender can skate the puck out of his zone, he’ll take it. And how far will he go? That depends on the opportunity. Will he take it just to his blue line? Center ice? The opposing blue line? Into the offensive zone for a chance? It depends on what he’s offered.

    But there is also the chance that the forecheck is heavy and they need to make a pass. Well, they can do that, too. The forwards are always ready to help on the breakout and give the defenders an option.

    What is impressive about Montgomery’s defense specifically is the quickness they use in their on-ice decision making. No skater is flat-footed and almost always makes the right decision before the opposition can force a mistake.

    When in the defensive zone against an offensive attack, the Denver defense made it a priority to clog up the slot and not give up any prime scoring opportunities. Most shots against came from the outside or from another bad angle, giving the goalie very little reason to scramble. The forwards retreated back into the defensive zone and helped hound the puck to force a turnover and breakout.

    More From Blackout Dallas: Ranking Each Of Jim Nill’s Five Dallas Stars Squads

    Just imagine what John Klingberg and some other mobile Dallas defenders could do with Montgomery’s system. But if he can get the defense working at a quick and effective pace and making the right decisions at any key juncture in the game, the Stars could once again own a top defensive unit.

    Special Teams

    Another big weakness for the Dallas Stars last season was their inconsistency on special teams. Whether it was the power play or penalty kill, neither seemed able to keep up a consistent pace throughout the year. There would be highs and lows, but very little consistency.

    With Denver, the success was there. The Pioneers owned the 13th best power play (22.1 percent) and eighth best penalty kill (85.2 percent) in college hockey last year.

    Montgomery is adamant about using all five skaters on the power play and heavily incorporating his defenders in the man advantage. Considering John Klingberg, Julius Honka, and Miro Heiskanen are known for their quarterbacking abilities on the power play, this should play right into the Dallas Stars wheelhouse. The defender takes the puck at the top and scans the setup in the zone before making the best choice to further push the attack.

    On the penalty kill, Montgomery sticks to the same format as many coaches use. He uses his four skaters in a loose box format that still gives the skaters an opportunity to break formation to pursue the puck further.


    The Dallas Stars are taking a bit of a gamble by hiring a head coach with no NHL experience. Considering the delicate situation the team is in right now with their window of contention in question, they need a surefire winner.

    With Jim Montgomery, they very well may have found that. He has nothing but success trailing him in his recent coaching stints and knows how to build a winning club through simplicity and attention to detail. Speed and hockey IQ doesn’t hurt, either.

    Next: Five Tasks Facing The Dallas Stars In 2018 Offseason

    The Stars are expected to announce Montgomery as their newest bench boss on Friday morning in a press conference. If that goes through, just know that the team is hiring a proven winner with a proven system.

    So, is it time to “Trust The Process”?