What to Expect From Interim Head Coach Rick Bowness

With Jim Mongtomery gone, the Stars will now turn to Rick Bowness as interim head coach for the rest of the season.

The Dallas Stars shocked the hockey world today when they announced that they had fired head coach Jim Montgomery for unprofessional conduct.

Details are still coming out about the firing, but regardless of the cause, what’s done is done. The Stars have a game to play tonight against the New Jersey Devils, and they will do so with Rick Bowness at the helm as interim head coach.

Bowness, age 64, hasn’t been a head coach in the NHL since 2004, when he served as the interim head coach of the (then) Phoenix Coyotes. The last time he held the role on a non-interim basis was 1997-98 with the New York Islanders, more than 20 years ago. As a head coach, Bowness has a 123-289-48-3 record (W-L-T-OTL) in 463 career games, and he managed to make the playoffs in just a single season — 1991-92 with the Boston Bruins.

However, despite his less-than-stellar record as head coach, Bowness has carved quite the name for himself over the past 15 years as a strong defensive-minded assistant coach. Since 2006, he has coached for the Vancouver Canucks, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and most recently Dallas. The Canucks won the President’s Trophy and were a Stanley Cup finalist during his tenure, and Victor Hedman won the Norris Trophy during his final season in Tampa Bay.

Since arriving in Dallas last year with Montgomery, Bowness has built off the defensive groundwork laid by Ken Hitchcock the year prior. The Stars were considered to be one of the best defensive teams in the NHL last year, with only the Islanders giving up fewer goals. That trend has continued so far this year, with Dallas ranking third best in the league behind New York and Arizona.

During the Stars’ press conference, Bowness told reporters that he will move away from the defense and focus on the forward group. John Stevens will take over the defense, with Derek Laxdal running the power play. Todd Nelson was not mentioned, but it’s expected that he will continue his role as an “eye in the sky.”

Bowness also said that there shouldn’t be any major philosophical changes, so expect the team to continue to embrace the “defense first” mentality that has served them well these past couple of seasons. That means focusing on limiting high-quality scoring chances from the opposition as well as minimizing turnovers and mistakes on offense and during transition.

GM Jim Nill also clarified that there are no immediate plans to hire a permanent head coach for Dallas. The expectation is that Dallas finishes the regular season under this coaching staff.