The Philadelphia Flyers have several marquee names available — including Barry Trotz, John Tortorella, Rick Tocchet, and Joel Quenneville — as they search for their seventh coach in the last nine years.
They also have some good fallback options.
Say hello to Jim Montgomery, who belongs in the latter category and would love the chance to direct the Orange and Black.
Montgomery spent the last two seasons as an assistant to Craig Berube in St. Louis.
This past season, the Blues put up 109 points — 48 more than the Philadelphia Flyers — and had superb special teams.
Success in St. Louis
Montgomery has spent time working with St,. Louis’ power play and penalty kill. This year, he worked exclusively with the penalty kill, directing them to fifth in the NHL with a 84.1% success rate. The power play — he planted the seeds with that group the previous season — was No. 2 in the league (27%).
And, so, yes, Montgomery has a background you would think would interest the Flyers. A former center, he is also proficient in the defensive part of the game and giving structure to the back end.
Montgomery’s special-teams background would be a plus. The Flyers’ power play was last (12.6%) in the NHL last season, and 26th (75.7%) in the 32-team league on the penalty kill. Defensively, they were 27th in goals allowed per game (3.59). St. Louis was 11th (2.91).
As far his penalty-kill philosophy, Montgomery said “we try to neutralize who their most dangerous player is on the breakout, and also in zone. Sometimes, you play against teams that have three guys who are really important. And then controlled pressure (is important), and having four guys working together and understanding their responsibilities on the strong side of the ice and weak side of the ice.”
The Blues’ penalty kill “tried pushing power-play players further away from the net, so they’re not getting into dangerous scoring areas.”
The Flyers, of course, were not good in that aspect. Carter Hart faced an inordinate amount of wide-open shooters from in close.
Hoping for call
As of Wednesday, Montgomery was finishing some end-of-year meetings with St. Louis. He was hopeful of getting an interview with the Flyers.
A former head coach with Dallas — he directed the Stars to Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals in his only full season with the team — says he is ready to run a team again. Working for the highly successful Berube, Montgomery said, has been good for him.
“The last couple years, I’ve grown under Chief, and have also learned so much from the other members of the staff,” he said. “I think I’m a much better-prepared coach to lead again.”
Montgomery has a connection to Philadelphia. He played on the then-Philadelphia Phantoms’ AHL team, coached by Bill Barber, that won the Calder Cup in 1998. The Montreal native spent three years with the Phantoms and parts of two seasons with the Flyers.
He had a highly successful five-year coaching stint at the University of Denver — his 2016-17 team won the NCAA national title — and he became the Dallas’ Stars’ coach in 2018-19. That season, the Stars lost in double-overtime in Game 7 to St. Louis in the conference semifinals. The Blues went on and won their first Stanley Cup.
Montgomery, who turns 53 on June 30, is a stickler for details, gets the most out of his players whether they are with or without the puck, and is a terrific penalty-kill teacher.
So says Berube, who believes Montgomery would be a great fit to be the Flyers’ head boss.
“He has a very good mind for the game, and he sees the game really well,” said Berube, a former Flyers coach whose Blues lost to powerful Colorado, four games to two, in a hard-fought Western Conference semifinal. “His details are good. He’s aware of guys and how the game should be played and how he wants to play the game.”
Berube said Montgomery “has a very good mind defensively. And he’s learned quite a bit here from our offensive standpoint. We’ve been a good offensive team, and we preach offense here. A lot.”
Elephant in room
The elephant in the room is how Montgomery was dismissed by Dallas for unprofessional conduct — 32 games into his second season with the team. He later revealed he was battling alcoholism.
“I needed to get help,” he said.
He got it, he said, and found sobriety. Montgomery said the drinking is behind him, and Berube concurred.
“He’s a great guy and a very positive person,” Berube said. “He comes in with a great attitude every day, and he’s is good at communicating with the players. He understands today’s players.”
Montgomery says he feels “a lot more comfortable in my skin now. I think if you spend time and understand where you went wrong (it’s helpful). Obviously, that was a very difficult time. But out of difficult times in any part of your life, any kind of adversity you face, if you grow from it, you become better. There’s no doubt in my mind I’m a much better person on the ice and off the ice because of what I’ve gone through. I’m in a better position now to have success and lead.”
Maybe even with the Flyers.