The Dallas Stars hired Jim Montgomery to be their next head coach on Friday morning. But after a mountain of success at the NCAA level, why would Montgomery ever leave for a team like the Stars?
There’s not much to go on when you think of recent success for a team like the Dallas Stars.
Ever since 2008, a cloud of mediocrity has overtaken the organization. In the past decade, the Stars have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs just twice and only won one playoff series. And if you thought that was bad enough, don’t forget that they have also been through five head coaches in that span.
No matter how you look at it, the team simply has not produced in the past ten years. Each season’s misfortunes seem to be attributed to different factors as well, which makes the mess even more frustrating.
In April of 2013, however, the Stars supposedly turned a corner. They got rid of former fan-favorite Joe Nieuwendyk as their general manager and brought in Jim Nill. After serving as an assistant GM in Detroit for multiple years, Nill seemed ready to take on the big chair.
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And he made immediate splashes, trading for Tyler Seguin in 2013 and Jason Spezza in 2014. Through the past five summers, Nill has always been prepared and able to pull off blockbuster deals. And yet, the Stars have only advanced past the regular season in two of Nill’s five seasons at the helm.
Whether you still truly believe in the “turned corner” or not is up to you. But in all reality, the Dallas Stars simply aren’t a good enough team for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And to complicate things even more, nothing they do in the offseason seems to help out in a significant enough way.
So why on earth would anyone want to be the next coach added to the seemingly endless carousel?
On Friday morning, the Dallas Stars announced the official hiring of Jim Montgomery. The 48-year-old, who chose to go by “Monty” at the press conference in order to avoid confusion with Jim Lites and Jim Nill, has been with the University of Denver Pioneers since 2013.
And since 2013, he’s turned the Pioneers into a legitimate contender in the NCAA.
Denver made it to the Frozen Four in 2016 and won a national championship in 2017. Through it all, Montgomery built a strong identity and culture, used his assets, and created a well-rounded unit.
So after building a winning culture and setting himself up for success in the future, why would he abandon it all? And to add on to that, why would he abandon it for the Dallas Stars?
“There has to be a two-way connection,” Montgomery told NHL Now about why he finally decided to make the NHL jump after a year of contemplation. “Right when I got off the plane in the car ride, Jim Nill and I were talking and we weren’t talking hockey; we were talking family and stuff. I felt a connection. And when we started talking hockey, his confidence and his plan and vision and how he’s building this team and making the Dallas Stars better really got me excited.”
“I told my wife, ‘I wanna be a Dallas Star.'”
There’s no doubt that Montgomery is an intriguing choice for the Stars. He will be just the fifth coach in hockey history to make the direct jump from college to the NHL. The success of the previous four has varied, which leaves Montgomery’s future success up in the air. But if you focus solely on the success he has had in college and junior hockey over the past nine years, the odds look good.
But that returns us to the original question: why would Montgomery leave an ideal situation in Denver? After all, he said after missing out on the Florida Panthers job last summer that he would need a perfect situation in order to leave. Are the Dallas Stars really that perfect situation?
Well, for the most part, yes they are.
Sure, the Stars’ track record is glaringly inconsistent. There are gaps and holes that have further handcuffed this franchise from taking the next step. And yet, they have one of the most talented rosters in professional hockey.
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Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg, and Ben Bishop stick out as highlight features. But then there is the lingering promise of players like Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, Devin Shore, Julius Honka, Miro Heiskanen, etc. The list goes on and on.
Montgomery is a coach known for getting the most out of his players and working to mold young talent into proven producers. He’s not only getting a veteran core with the Stars, but is also picking up a decent crop of young and unproven talent along with one of the more promising farm systems in the league.
Nill found the right fit for the Stars not only for now, but also for the future. Montgomery, on the other hand, likely saw the potential buried in the roster and wants a crack at unleashing it at full potential. That’s an awfully scary thought if he can make it happen.
So was Jim Nill just an extra good salesman? That played a part in it. But Montgomery’s decision to leave his situation in Denver for a non-playoff Stars team is a testament to the potential this team possesses. They don’t necessarily get the results they want, but they do a lot of damage in the process.
Can Montgomery help change that? October is only a hop, skip, and jump away, right?