We’ve often bitched about the Old Boys Club that NHL coaches are chosen from. Same goes for GMs. It feels like you only get an NHL job if you had one before, or served as an assistant for years. We think the game could use new ideas, and they need to come from new places.
And yet those coaches picked from different places…it really hasn’t always worked out, has it? In fact, the success rate is pretty low.
Dave Hakstol flamed out in Philly pretty quickly. You can argue about the roster he was given, but no one with the Flyers or who follows them was too upset with his dismissal. At best, you can say the jury is still out on Jeremy Colliton. Remember Dallas Eakins? Boy, that went well. Guy Boucher turned out to be a fraud, twice. About the only coach who worked his way up through the levels and got his first coaching gig without being an assistant is John Cooper in Tampa Bay. It can happen, it just doesn’t all that often.
Jim Montgomery is a name that will get tossed out as a success. And on the surface, that seems correct. Montgomery had a glittering record at Denver University. Over five seasons the Pioneers went 125-57-26, made two Frozen Fours and collected a national championship. If any coach was screaming out for a promotion to the pro ranks, it was Montgomery.
And Montgomery has the Stars in the playoffs. They missed out last year. Except dig anywhere beneath the surface, and there isn’t much difference between the job Ken Hitchcock did last year, which everyone panned, and the one Montgomery is doing now.
The Stars could finish with a max of 95 points, which is only a small improvement on the 92 they collected last year. They could finish with less than those 92 points as well. That’s just a bounce here or there.
On top of that, by any measure the Stars are actually worse than they were last year. They take less attempts, and they give up more of them. They take less shots, and give up more of them. Their expected goals, or types of chances, they both create and surrender are both headed in the wrong direction. The difference is that Ben Bishop has been way better, as they had an ES SV% last year of .925 and this year it’s .934. That’s a difference of about 20 goals just at even-strength, which is about four or five points in the standings. The other difference, of course, is that the conference is so much worse.
The Stars have roster flaws of course. There’s only one line here. They’ve been racked by injuries, as Radulov, Benn, Klingberg, Bishop all having missed time. Maybe for Montgomery to have their peripherals where they are is something of a job. Hard to say, though.
Perhaps hockey is more like football in that the transition from college to pros is just rougher than you’d think. Maybe it’s a path that needs to be more well-worn. It’s also worth noting the Denver has rolled right along without Montgomery, into the Frozen Four again. But those are his kids there, so we know he can recruit. Sadly, that doesn’t do much for you in the NHL.
If the Stars get Montgomery a second and third line, then we’ll see what he’s made of. If they can make noise in the playoffs and Bishop is injured we’ll know. But until then, maybe the exclusive club isn’t as bad as we thought.
Game #81 Preview Suite