It was pretty much confirmed a couple of days ago but the Dallas Stars made it official today: their next head coach will be Jim Montgomery. It was first reported by SBNation’s Chris Dilks and then confirmed by multiple other sources.
In a piece by Sean Shapiro at the Athletic a couple weeks ago, two things stood out to me about Montgomery: he wants his teams committed to hitting/blocking shots, and he wants them to play aggressive. Being aggressive is exactly what people want to hear when it comes to a hockey coach, but that’s not breaking any new ground. It’s the hits and blocked shots that are noteworthy.
A few years ago, one of the better quotes I’ve ever read with regards to hockey play style came out from Kent Wilson, who is now a Calgary writer for The Athletic:
Blocking shots is like killing rats. Doing it is preferable to not, but if you’re doing it all the time it suggests you have bigger problems
— Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson) March 18, 2015
His assessment is, of course, correct. If things break down in the defensive zone and you need to block a shot, that’s all well and good. If things are constantly breaking down in the defensive zone and you constantly need to block shots, it means your team is getting run out of the rink. Whether this is a focus strictly for his players at the college level or he’ll alter his philosophy at the NHL level remains to be seen. My hope is that he can adapt his coaching for the Stars; if you have Alex Radulov or Tyler Seguin sliding all over the ice every game to block shots, something’s gone horribly wrong.
Montgomery needs to do two things:
- Get scoring out of the depth players. If you look at the eight teams remaining in the playoffs, they finished with these ranks league-wide in goals scored in the regular season: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 13th. Seven of the eight teams were in the top-10 and every team was in the top-half of the league. Dallas was 19th in the league in scoring despite getting over 100 goals from their top line. Seguin/Benn/Radulov scored 103 goals and the rest of the team scored 128. For reference, Boston got 99 goals from their top line and the rest of the team scored 168 while the Vegas top line scored 92 while the rest of the team scored 176.
- Bring along their young defencemen. Esa Lindell had a fine season but Julius Honka was essentially set aside by Ken Hitchcock and Miro Heiskanen should probably be on the NHL roster this year. Assuming both Dan Hamhuis and Greg Pateryn aren’t re-signed, they’ll need both Honka and Heiskanen to be NHL regulars this year. It’ll be up to Montgomery and his stuff to get as much out of them as he can.
If the new Dallas coach can get some scoring from three, even four lines, and give his young defencemen roles and guidance that allow them to flourish, there is a lot of upside to this team. My one hesitation is the concern that Montgomery is Hitchcock reincarnate. If he can adapt, his team should respond in a very positive way. I am optimistic for the 2018-19 Dallas Stars.