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Reports: Stars Will Hire DU Head Coach Jim Montgomery As Next Bench Boss

First suggested yesterday by Chris Dilks from our network’s SBN College Hockey site, it appears as though the Dallas Stars will be hiring Denver head coach Jim Montgomery. The announcement is expected to come sometime this week.

While the Stars had no official comment in regards to these rumors, plenty of big wigs around the media are reporting it’s all but a done deal. Until the deal is done, nothing is a 100% certainty, but the general sense is that the Stars are really impressed with Montgomery. He’s been linked to the New York Rangers too, and you can’t ever discount the allure of the Big Apple (if you’re having flashbacks to a few summers ago when Alain Vigneault was linked to both of these teams, you wouldn’t be alone.)

Plenty of Stars fans will be happy with this hire for several reasons.

First, it’s not a retread from the NHL coaching carousel hired by general manager Jim Nill. Nill first hired Lindy Ruff, after his departure from the Buffalo Sabres. Ruff was able to figure out the offensive side of today’s puck possession NHL style, but left a little something to be desired on the defensive side. With injuries wrecking the roster his last season, and a system that relied too heavily on goal scoring to get wins, the Stars parted ways with Ruff and hired Ken Hitchcock last year. Hitchcock swung the exact opposite direction, implementing a system that strangled offense systemically but vastly improved the defensive side of the game.

From reading through a bunch of reports and scouting analysis on Montgomery’s style, I’d expect that the system he will implement in Dallas will strike a balance moving forward between the run-and-gun and the repressive defensive styles of the last two bench bosses here.

Second, it represents a fresh direction for the Stars since general manager Jim Nill came on board in Dallas: Nill recognizes that the game is evolving, and he’s gone out to find a head coach that will evolve with it. Montgomery has had success at all levels of coaching in the past, and he’s a younger coach that understands the modern NHL. He’ll balance being a player’s coach with demanding the execution of fundamental hockey on a high level (the core of the structure of his system).

There are questions about this kind of hire, of course. He’s never coached at this level, and he may struggle to adapt at first. The expectations of the roster in Dallas is that of a playoff team next year, and one that goes deep in the playoffs at that — after all, the impending extension of Tyler Seguin could hinge on that kind of success on the ice. The margin for his learning curve will be slim.

He’ll be faced with balancing some veteran guys like Jason Spezza and bringing along some fresh rookies (such as Miro Heiskanen) and getting buy-in from all 23 men on his roster. That’s something that Ruff and Hitchcock struggled with in varying degrees in seasons past, and could go a long way to having success from the start of the season.

The last thing I do want to say about this hire is that this feels like a Jim Nill guy. He’s got the puck possession style that Nill was a part of in Detroit, and feels like a guy that will be able to get the most out of the type of player Nill has drafted in the past. With a blueline that should be fairly mobile next season (John Klingberg, Heiskanen, and Julius Honka are some smooth puck possession guys back there), and a forward group that has plenty of potential firepower (Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, etc), I get the impression that Montgomery will be a guy that can make both of those sides mesh together for a fun brand of hockey.

As with any new hire, expectations (and hopes) will be high. Hopefully this helps everyone get excited about Stars hockey this summer.