I had to get that out of my system early. Apologies.
The Dallas Stars time-consuming exhaustive search for the successor to Ken Hitchcock is finally over…after less than three weeks. Jim Montgomery will be leaving the University of Denver to fill the Stars head coaching vacancy with an official announcement and press conference on Friday. The vague press release was sent within the past hour.
Montgomery was the first head coaching candidate profiled by Mooterati, and apparently the only one needing a profile. I imagine we’ll hear a lot more on Friday, but he must have wowed the Stars to a considerable degree to lock the job down as quickly as he did.
This is an interesting hire for the Stars. They could have gone the conservative route by hiring a coach with NHL experience. Alain Vigneault is sitting out there fresh off of being fired by the New York Rangers, and he was a main contender for the job in Dallas when Lindy Ruff was hired. Instead, they chose to step out of their comfort zone.
Names like Willie Desjardins, a former Stars coach, and Derek Laxdal, current coach of the Texas Stars, were connected to the position through the media. Bill Peters, now of the Calgary Flames and an ex-Detroit Red Wings assistant coach, was an early candidate. All would have been “safe” hires of guys with obvious connections to the team and general manager.
Other candidates existed who wouldn’t have been standard Stars hires, such as Sheldon Keefe, Todd Richards, and Pascal Vincent. The easy route is to hire the guys you know, but it isn’t always the best. Montgomery may not work out, but the fresh blood and different perspective he can bring to what the Stars do is something they can really use.
From the outside looking in there are three keys to this being a successful hiring.
Montgomery has a strong record of player development. The Stars have young talent, but all too often the youth hasn’t been able to take that next step. College hockey is largely about development. Montgomery should be more of a development-focused coach than his predecessor.
One aspect that bugged many about the 2018 season was that the organization seemed disjointed. Hitchcock played who he wanted to play. Nill held on to promising young players like Julius Honka and Gemel Smith despite toiling away in the press box or with low minutes. Everyone seemed to have a different goal to the very end.
Montgomery and Nill should be on the same page. Hopefully the system Montgomery wants to play in Dallas is extended to Austin too so young players can easily step in when needed. Continuity is vital.
A Modern Game
Ken Hitchcock talked a good game when he was hired, but it didn’t come together. The Stars spiraled into a team that settled for chipping the puck out of their own zone and dumping the puck in offensively. You never would have guessed that they claimed to want to play with speed by New Years.
Montgomery’s teams focus on moving the puck quickly from the defensive end. Watch Will Butcher of the New Jersey Devils. The Stars have these guys in place already with John Klingberg, Honka, and soon Miro Heiskanen. Watching them have the freedom to carry the puck up the ice should be treat. Ditto Stephen Johns.
I’m not ignoring the process stuff. We’ll get there.