DU does right by all by extending Montgomery

Photo courtesy: Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post

Barely a week after the Calgary Sun reported that University of Denver hockey head coach Jim Montgomery was one of the finalists for the Calgary Flames’ open head coach position, DU announced that it had extended Montgomery’s contract by five years. Montgomery signed his name on the dotted line, and the rest is history…or so we hope.

Because DU is a private institution, it is not required to disclose the terms of such contracts, so it’s difficult to know exactly how much Montgomery will be getting paid over the next five years or what kind of buy-out there is on both sides. All we know for sure is that Montgomery’s new contract runs through the 2020-2021 season.

Regardless of whether you think that the timing of the extension is questionable given the news out of Calgary, this was the right move for DU.

In just three years’ time, Montgomery has taken a program that perennially struggled to make it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament to heights not seen at Evans and University in over a decade. In his three years, ‘Monty’ has led the Pioneers to three NCAA Tournaments, three NCHC Frozen Faceoffs including a conference championship in his first year, and the program’s first Frozen Four berth since the 2005 championship under George Gwozdecky.

Montgomery’s meteoric rise was never going to go unnoticed. Sure, Denver is a historic college hockey powerhouse, but unless you’re Jerry York coaching a program like Boston College, when the NHL comes calling, you answer. If the Calgary Sun‘s article is to be believed (there is no reason it shouldn’t be), DU almost lost Jim Montgomery in the middle of the night.

DU’s athletic director Peg Bradley-Doppes isn’t blind to reality. She recognized that under Gwozdecky’s leadership, the Pioneers had hit a brick wall. With the benefit of hindsight, she made a necessary change. She saw an opportunity for growth in the sport of lacrosse, so all she did was snag the greatest coach in the history of the sport, Bill Tierney, and bring him to Denver.

There is a growing trend in the NHL of hiring former college head coaches as former North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol (Flyers) and former Western Michigan head coach Jeff Blashill (Red Wings) led their respective teams to the playoffs in their first year.

Bradley-Doppes may have seen the writing on the wall. This trend combined with the report out of Calgary may have required action on her part.

On the other hand, Montgomery earned this extension. Take away both the NHL’s recent hiring trend and the article in the Calgary Sun, Jim Montgomery still would have been worthy of an extension. What he’s done with this program is nothing short of remarkable and he deserves another five years to continue the tradition of championship hockey at Magness Arena.

In his first year alone, after a few of the program’s most talented players left the program early to sign with NHL franchises (Scott Mayfield, Juho Olkinuora, and Nick Shore), he turned what probably should have been branded a “rebuilding year” into an NCHC championship and an unlikely berth in the NCAA Tournament. Even though Monty’s first group of Pios got bounced in the first round by a very good Boston College team, the tone was set going forward.

In his second year, Montgomery did what Gwozdecky failed to do in his final few years behind DU’s bench: get out of the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

After taking just three years to lead the Pioneers back to the Frozen Four, it has become clear that Montgomery is absolutely the right man to lead the Pioneers for the foreseeable future. His hockey-sense is second to none, his passion is inspiring, and his love for the Pioneers knows no bounds.

It has only been three years, but it feels like Monty has been in Denver for a lifetime. While that may not be true, Pioneer hockey fans can be excited to get at least another five years of him in crimson and gold.

By extending Jim Montgomery, the DU athletics department did right by its alumni, fans, students, and student-athletes. Monty is here to stay and that’s the right thing for this program.

12 thoughts on “DU does right by all by extending Montgomery”

  1. Wow, I bet Maine is kicking themselves….what might have been! But I digress…

    Question for Pios fans in the know, over the next five years, do you see any possibility of Coach Montgomery ever leaving in order to coach a Hockey East program if the right opportunity presented itself?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Monty is very happy in Denver. His next move will be to the NHL as a head coach, not to another college program. Other NCAA jobs are lateral moves, and the DU job is one of the best in the NCAA – great tradition, solid recruiting, good pay, media exposure, jet travel, good facilities, without the high level of media/fan scrutiny you find in other markets. Honestly, we will be lucky to get another year or two out of him in Denver, since NHL HC jobs pay about $1 million a year, about 2 to 3 times what Monty will make in Denver, to say nothing of making it to the top level of the profession, which most NCAA coaches covet…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As I posted on the other thread about this, I think once he gets a National Championship on his resume….anything is possible for him. I’m shocked he hasn’t been considered for the Wold Juniors Coaching slot…or perhaps he already has and declined.
        I too think he’s cemented here for the long haul. Just like the prior DU Coach. He deserves a title or 2 at this school.


  2. Monty is from Montreal, and it’s not likely he’ll ever coach a US Junior team, as USA Hockey prefers to choose American coaches to coach USA hockey teams. Hockey Canada likely won’t select him either, since they prefer their world junior coaches to come Canadian Major Junior programs, not college coaches.


  3. Am I missing something? Montgomery’s success is attributed to Gwozdecky recruits. Monty has yet to prove he can pull top-tier recruits like Gwoz. The jury is still out


    1. To be completely fair, stuffing the roster with high draft picks didn’t afford Gwoz much recent success with Gwozdecky recruits, either….

      Remember the first round dream duo of Zucker and Bennett? Oh right…it produced exactly ZERO NCAA tournament wins.

      And then there’s Gwoz’s absolutely STACKED team with Bozak, Colborne, Rakhshani, Ruegsegger, Cheverie, and Wiercoich on it.

      Yeah, that one.

      The one that lost to RIT in the first round of the NCAAs.


      Recruiting is only one part of the puzzle – one that Gwoz admittedly mastered. The other part – the more important part – is crafting a system and style of play that takes the talents of those recruited players and directs them in a way that results in wins when they matter. Gwoz simply didn’t do this enough at the end and DU was right to move on.


      1. Oops. Zucker was a 2nd round pick.

        My mistake.

        Doesn’t change the fact that Gwoz was unable to leverage his and Bennett’s (and Matt Donovan’s) talent into wins that mattered….


  4. It all depends how you define a top recruit. Take NHL first round draft picks – the consensus top potential pros in their age group. DU has NEVER had an NCAA championship team with a first round NHL draft pick on it. There have only been three first round picks (Craig Redmond, Joe Colborne and Beau Bennett) prior to this year in DU history. None of them stayed more than two years at DU, none of them have DU NCAA title rings, and none of them ever made all-American status, either. Borgstrom is the fourth DU first rounder and we’ll see what he does when he puts on the jersey,

    Give me the guys who stay 3-4 years, who bleed Crimson and Gold and who are willing to blend into the team concept. That’s what Murray Armstrong and Gwoz both built with their DU title teams of years ago.

    Monty is now going into year four, with most of the DU players are his recruits now. His on-ice progress has been steady, and with each passing year, higher profile recruits are signing here, too. But at the end of the day, it’s not who you sign, but what they do for our school that counts.


    1. That’s fine, but you can’t win without talent, and we aren’t recruiting talent. We are recruiting second-tier NAHL players. DU should have waited to give Monty the big extension until he proves that he can win with HIS players, which he has yet to do. This year will be a big test for Monty, given recent departures. The big extension may prove to be a mistake.


  5. Monty is going into year four at DU. About Half the Frozen Four team was his recruits last season and this year, all but the seniors will be his recruits. He finishes have been progressively better each year than the year before, always advancing deeper in the NCAA tournament, and always higher than projected, so far. He came within an one minute of title game last year and within an eyelash of becoming an NHL head coach this summer in Calgary. In short, the man has PROVEN he can coach (and recruit – Heinen, Gambrell, Bergstrom, etc.) at the elite level and is quite worth the contract extension he got.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lighten up Anonoymous. Remember, Gwoz didn’t leave much for Monty to work with. So most of us thought. We figured it would take time. However, Monty coached kids up; we improved during each season. (Monty finalist for Flames job; probably because coach works with players GM hands him). All is well for DU hockey. Strong this year with good recruits coming in following years.


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