By STEPHEN WHYNO AP Hockey Writer
Jim Montgomery was hired by the St. Louis Blues as an assistant Wednesday, less than a year since he was fired by the Dallas Stars for unprofessional conduct.
Montgomery is getting a second chance in the NHL 10 months since Stars general manager Jim Nill said the 51-year-old coach acted inconsistently with “core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League” and didn’t elaborate. The Stars replaced him in December with interim coach Rick Bowness and are now in the Stanley Cup Final.
In a statement released by the Blues, Montgomery said he and his family are very grateful to owner Tom Stillman, general manager Doug Armstrong and coach Craig Berube for this opportunity. His Stars lost in the second round of the 2019 playoffs to Berube’s Blues, who went on to win the Cup.
“Jim has won at every level he has coached at, and we look forward to him being a valuable addition to our team,” said Armstrong, who is holding a video news conference about Montgomery on Thursday.
Montgomery fills the spot vacated by Marc Savard, who stepped away from coaching after one season to return to his family in Canada.
This is Montgomery’s first NHL assistant coaching job. After a playing career as a center that included one season with St. Louis in the mid-90s, Montgomery went behind the bench in the college ranks, won two championships with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League and coached five years at the University of Denver before the Stars hired him.
Montgomery was considered one of the next big coaching stars at the time and got Dallas to the playoffs in his first season there. While the circumstances around his firing in December remain murky, Nill called it a “total surprise”
“A very tough decision,” Nill said then. “I have got a lot of respect for Jim Montgomery. He’s a very good coach. And unfortunately, you know, sometimes in life, the hardest decisions are the toughest. And this is one of them.”
It worked out well for the Stars after Nill had to make another tough decision who would take over among Bowness, John Stevens and Todd Nelson, who had all been NHL head coaches before. After learning of Montgomery’s conduct, Nill didn’t have much time to make that decision.
“I just had to decide who I wanted to be kind of the leader of that group,” Nill said Tuesday. “I knew that any of them could be, but I just thought Rick was probably the guy. He’d been in Dallas with us the longest at that time. He’s done a good job.”
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