It may not be the signing that Blues fans were hoping to see on a Wednesday afternoon but it may be a signing that influences this team moving forward.
The former Dallas Stars Head Coach and former Blues forward Jim Montgomery is back in the NHL after being fired in December of 2019 for what the team called “substance abuse”. Montgomery saw success everywhere he coached, all the way up to the NHL where he was a wrap-around away from heading to the Western Conference Final and possibly a Stanley Cup Final in his first season.
This signing may surprise some but Doug Armstrong has a history of making “under the radar” signing to the coaching staff that have paid off. For example, remember Kirk Muller? Well, from 2014-2016, he was the main reason the Blues powerplay finished 3rd best in the NHL. And then there’s Steve Ott and Mike Van Ryn who both had zero experience as a coach in the NHL and they went onto win the Stanley Cup in their first year with Craig Berube. Now add in the experience of a Head Coach who won two USHL Championships in three seasons, a NCAA championship with Denver and made the playoffs for the first time in three years for the Stars organization.
Personally, it takes a big man to admit his wrong as Jim Montgomery did with his “substance abuse” and that’s exactly what Jim has done. People may say, “of course he admits his wrong doing, he was fired and wants back in the NHL”. That’s true but some don’t get another opportunity like that and most wouldn’t be fired after the success Jim had in his short time in the NHL. But, for me, Montgomery is a class act in the way he handled the media last season, the way he managed his players (remember, last season was the season that DAL’s owner called out Seguin and Benn) and also someone who understands the player angle of the game. That pays off tremendously in a locker room during the haul of a season. All of these factors play into why Montgomery is a perfect fit for the St. Louis Blues.
Now, let’s answer the question that everyone is going to be asking, what’s his role going to be? According to Jim, “anything that the team and Berube needs”. For me, there can be a lot of different areas that Montgomery can be an asset to this team. From the coaching side, a former head coach providing another view of the game for Craig Berube is going to be huge. This isn’t like what we witnessed with Yeo and Hitchcock, this is like what AlainVigneault had in Philly this year with Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo. Then there is the ability to work with younger players to reach their potential, which the Blues are hoping to cash in on. Montgomery did that last season with a few players, mainly Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen and Radek Faska. A former collegiate and junior hockey Head Coach, Jim will have the ability to capture the ears of players like Blais, Sanford, Kyrou and others to meet their potential for the Blues.
Finally, there is the defensive angle to this. Montgomery was a forward in his NHL career, having his best offensive season with the Blues but during his Head Coach career in the NHL, he changed the defensive angle of the team. In the 16-17 season, the Stars were 29th in the NHL in goals allowed, Montgomery’s first season his team finished with 2nd best goals allowed. A defensive angle to boost an already incredible defense in the NHL solidifies the identity of this team for next season. Plus, his special teams numbers aren’t to shabby (11th best PP & 5th best PK).
Everyone is still desperate to get an answer on the Pietrangelo front, heck, that is going to dictate what next season truly is going to look like for the Blues. But, an already stacked coaching staff just added another brain that has the 3rd best winning percentage in Dallas Stars history, in only a season and a half. Montgomery will be no savior to this team but he definitely strengthens an already strong coaching staff for an upcoming season that is going to be insanity.
AP Photo/John Minchillo, File