Today is part 3 of my potential Blackhawks coaching profiles. Be sure to check out the previous profiles on Rick Tocchet and Claude Julien. Today's focus is former Dallas Stars head coach and current St. Louis Blues assistant coach, Jim Montgomery.
Blackhawks Twitter seems aflutter with interest in Montgomery as the next head coach. I can understand why. He is on the younger side of the coaching candidates (at least the youngest of the three I have covered so far) at age 52. There is no fear of him retiring amidst a rebuild like there could be with someone of the likes of Claude Julien. He has a diverse past as a player; he's sort of a journeyman playing for several NHL, IHL, and AHL teams, and as a coach; he coached for the University of Notre Dame, Rensselaer Polytechnic, and the University of Denver, leading them to a Frozen Four appearance, before being hired by the Dallas Stars as head coach in 2018.
As the Stars head coach, he led them to their first playoff appearance in 3 seasons, including finishing atop the Wild Card standings in the West and advancing to the second round before losing to the Blues. They were 43-32-7 and he was able to help establish a winning culture that they have continued through this season. Since Montgomery was hired, the Stars have made the postseason 3 out of 4 seasons.
With his diverse background as a player, Montgomery knows how to expertly relate and develop young players, which is key in a rebuild. Additionally, some heavily experienced and successful coaches can occasionally not work out with new teams because a sort of apathy has set in. This is not the case for Montgomery. He is still hungry, only having the one head coaching experience and not yet reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. I think that hunger would correlate well with the up and coming players as well. Frankly, I think he is my favorite candidate of the coaches I have profiled so far.
So, if you're reading this and think that this seems like the best case scenario coach and you're wondering why a coach like this would even be available, allow me to fill you in. Montgomery did not last long in Dallas. After the successful first season in 2018-19, Montgomery coached only 31 games in 2019-20 season before he was fired. It was not because of performance, as, at the time, the Stars were 17-11-3. Montgomery was fired by the team on December 10, 2019 due to "unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League." For a time, the Stars and Montgomery remained quiet on the issue, while speculation arose. Then, in January, 2020, Montgomery revealed he had checked himself into a rehab center for help with alcohol abuse.
Quite a dramatic turn of events. But here's the good news: Montgomery seems to be back on his feet after dealing with that, because only 8 months after checking himself into rehab, the St. Louis Blues hired him as an assistant coach. If a team still had concerns about him, they might be hesitant to take a risk, especially a contending team like the Blues who would want to prevent all distraction.
Basically what I'm saying is, I love Montgomery as a coach. I think he would work wonders with the young players. I think we'd see the best version of Kirby Dach to date, I think Lukas Reichel, and other players down the pipeline would be able to develop into legitimate talent. If you are looking for a fairly quick bounce back from a rebuild (and by that I still mean like 4-5 years), I think Montgomery is your guy.