Chasing Monty

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As the NHL regular season wrapped up this past weekend, many of the teams that missed the playoffs began to make new plans to replace their coaches. In a league that is so dependent on attendance, luxury suites, and merchandise sales, a losing season nearly requires teams to consider a change in their head coaches.

Some teams are rewarded for their patience, such as the local Colorado Avalanche who turned their season around under a new coach, Jared Bednar, from a paltry 48 points last season to 95 points this season and a playoff berth. But again, like last season’s extended courtship with the Florida Panthers, expect DU head coach Jim Montgomery’s name to be thrown into a number of NHL candidate pools as teams lower the ax. 

The Sporting News, along with a number of Gotham news outlets, have placed Jim Montgomery on the New York Rangers’ early head coaching candidate speculation lists. Said the News, “It’s rare to see a coach go directly from the NCAA to an NHL head coaching job, but Montgomery has built a perennial power in Denver. The success of Philadelphia’s Dave Hakstol, the most recent to make the unorthodox jump, could pave the way. Montgomery led the Pioneers to the NCAA tournament in each of his first five seasons and won a national championship in 2017, bringing along successful NHLers such as Devils defenseman Will Butcher. His name was hot in last year’s round of NHL coaching searches before he withdrew from consideration for the Panthers’ job after two interviews. Montgomery will be in the mix again this year, if he wants to be.”

At minimum, this news is sure to excite NCHC rivals who have had to face the Pioneers over the last five seasons.

Only three NCAA head coaches have made the direct jump from college to NHL head coaches — Ned Harkness from Cornell to the Red Wings, Bob Johnson from Wisconsin to the Calgary Flames, and Dave Hakstol from North Dakota to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Several other NCAA head coaches eventually became NHL head coaches after intermediate stops at other levels, such as Herb Brooks, who went from Minnesota to the US Olympic team to the NHL, and others who became NHL assistant coaches before ascending to NHL head coaches, such as Steve Stirling and Jeff Blashill.

But Montgomery’s coaching success at every level, combined with his NHL playing experience would make him instantly credible in any NHL locker room. Plus, with  Monty’s Pioneer players moving up to the NHL in droves, the Pioneer playing style is seen to complement the direction of the professional game which is built on speed, details, skill and creativity. The Denver up-tempo style, predicated on puck pressure and support, mobile defense, time-and-space management and Montgomery’s relentless Pioneer hockey work ethic, has been duly noted around the hockey world. NHL scouts observe Monty at work on player development in person every weekend during the season.

On top of his on-ice and motivational skills, Montgomery has also embraced the modern PR game and social media with a fresh media relations style that is honest and up-front, as well enthusiastic about promoting Denver hockey history, honoring traditions and celebrating hockey alumni. This approach is different from the dry “coach speak” that is so prevalent in the hockey world, and he has delighted the Denver hockey community after taking over for legendary coach George Gwozdecky.

Monty certainly enjoys his life in Denver, where his program enjoys success on the ice, the growing city of Denver is dynamic and the weather is mostly favorable.  His family is now part of the community and loves it here. And while the financial package at DU is likely north of $500,000 per year, he enjoys a very nice lifestyle without the intense media pressure he’d be under in the NHL. The NHL coaches, besides being under enormous pressure to win, also must travel to up to 70 games per year when you include pre-season, regular season and post-season games,  Such in-season travel is hard on families, especially ones with young children at home, as Montgomery, who enjoys watching his kids grow up while his current travel schedule is largely limited to a few game weekends per month and the odd recruiting trip.

Historically, the NHL is a short term league hell-bent on tradition and tends to discount college coaches in favor of NHL retreads, NHL assistants, and Canadian Major Junior coaches with whom the NHL GMs are already familiar. In a league so dependent on wins and attendance, head coaching hiring decisions tend to be extremely risk averse, as taking a ‘safe’ pick enables a GM to take more proven NHL coaching commodities. For example, Darryl Sutter has already been the head coach of four different NHL teams before he was most recently fired in 2017.  That said, he’ll likely be hired again by some team hungry for an experienced NHL coach. A Montgomery hire by the NHL, especially by a blue-blood, original six franchise such as New York, Detroit or Chicago, would be seen as a serious reach, but it is possible.

As long as Montgomery is here in Denver, Pioneer Nation will be holding their collective breath at the end of every season, as NHL teams consider the talented Montgomery for their bench. And, with NHL coaches now commanding $2-4 million dollars per year on a 3-4 year contract, no one could blame Montgomery if he decided to become one of the 30 head coaches at the highest level of his profession.

34 thoughts on “Chasing Monty”

  1. Good article 5B. You covered it well.

    If we won the championship this year I think Monty would be gone.
    His star would be shining brightly and NHL team owners and G.M’s like political cover when selecting a coach. Most NHL owners are very much in the mix when deciding on head coaches.

    We can at least take some solice in losing out for the championship in that it increases our odds of keeping Monty for at least another year.
    Let’s hope.


  2. Monty is awesome. But it is incorrect for the Sporting News to say Monty has “built” a perennial power. DU was a perennial power when Monty arrived. He just continued the success, and elevated it in some respects.


  3. If Monty is looking for the brass ring, he will probably bolt.
    If his family is most important, I think he will look beyond the $$$ and stay at DU.
    Regardless, what a class act!
    In his short tenure so far, Monty stands right up there with Armstrong and Gwozdecky.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If a credible organization like the Rangers calls, you have to listen. As for last year’s Florida Panthers – a clown show. Monty can be selective because he is in a great situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think with the growth of college hockey as an NHL player producer, the simultaneous growth of American players as legitimate NHL players and the growing number of American NHL GMs (a role that used to be almost all Canadians from Canadian Junior backgrounds) it’s only a matter of time before we see more NCAA coaches becoming NHL coaches.

    Monty has everything it takes to be successful as an NHL coach. He’s played in that league, and learned to take the best ideas from a number of top NHL coaches. He’s won at the NCAA and USHL levels, and his systems, player development and teaching skills are all cutting edge. He’s also proving to be refreshing and media savvy, which any coach in a major market must be. He’s competitive, hard working and his players pretty much love him, which is a huge component of coaching millennials.

    If he were to get a head coaching offer from the New York Rangers, he’d be foolish not to take it, and that’s coming from a person who bleeds Crimson and Gold.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As a Rangers fan I hope he’s Jeff Gorton’s first target, as a DU fan I would be sad to see him go. Definitely would be a catch 22. Then we would be looking at a DU coaching search, hopefully David Carle would be under consideration.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Also, David Carle is a top 3 finalist for the U Alaska Anchorage job. He is an Anchorage native and may get an offer well before Montgomery will have to make a decision. He would be young for a job like DU’s but he is a strong recruiter and knows the Montgomery system and playing style.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Why would anyone want to leave a job at a top-5 hockey program in the country, to take a job at the worst Division 1 hockey program in the country (uaa)? I don’t think Carle takes that job. And I don’t think that Carle is ready for the DU job, if Montgomery leaves. DU would probably find another seasoned person with head coaching experience, especially with their large budget for a head hockey coach. DU is not at a point now where they need (or should) hire a fresh face that is new to head coaching.

    But hopefully Monty stays and all this is a moot discussion.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. We don’t want Miller and his defensive clog systems. That’s all he’s ever coached. I don’t think he has ever been over the red line at center ice.
    Even when that style wins it’s booooring hockey

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Timing is certainly an issue here, as both Carle and Monty are candidates for other jobs, and those searches are at different stages, but is there a scenario in which both Carle and Monty are gone this spring? A pretty good source on campus indicated Monty wanted to win 2-3 national titles while here and then hand the reins to Carle. But if both coaches leave, and we couple that with all of the talent lost to early departures, suddenly it seems DU is going from a team that should have been contending for a title this spring to a team in major transition.

    Has anyone else been waking up every morning for the last 2 weeks and just hoping and praying the loss to Ohio State was just a bad dream???? I still can’t believe it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I can relate to Twister’s comments about the Ohio State loss…
    And I also must pinch myself when realizing that the NCAA National Champion is the same team DU beat 5, yes FIVE, times during the season!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. No new coach speak from me yet. I’m still mourning OSU loss. Honestly, if 4 or more top shelf talent was all it took to win a NC, the Sioux, Minnesota, and BU would win the title most years. They hardly ever win. Just glad Michigan didn’t get #10. Go Pios.

    5bWest, great article, thanks


  10. If Monty takes the Rangers job it wouldn’t surprise me if Mathias Emilio Petersson was drafted by the Rangers, with the Zuccarello Norwegian connection as well

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Doesn’t that article pertain to the other alaska school? Are they both looking for coaches? I’m actually surprised that the one in Anchorage still has a hockey program. Life support situation, at best.


      1. You are right- I assumed this was Anchorage. It is for Fairbanks. So, Carle could still be in the mix for Anchorage.


  11. In the event Monty does take a job this off-season I’m going to throw out some names as potential replacement options. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

    David Carle (DU Assistant Coach)
    Steve Miller (Ohio State Assistant Coach)
    Seth Appert (USA U-18 Head Coach)
    David Wilkie (Omaha Lancers Head Coach)
    Cary Eades (Fargo Force Head Coach)
    Mike Hastings (Minnesota State Head Coach)
    Grant Potulny (Northern Michigan Head Coach)
    Angelo Ricci (Colorado Thunderbirds Head Coach)


  12. Though I love him, Gwoz’ day has passed. His style of play, along with Steve Miller’s are not what DU needs.
    Monty has brought his exciting style of up-tempo play that will continue to be the future of the better D-1 college hockey programs.
    Should Monty decide to move on to greener ($$$) pastures, I believe his style of coaching and play needs to be maintained by whomever succeeds him… for the sake of both the program and the fans.


    1. it was gwoz/miller recruits in the senior class that led to a DU title last year too don’t forget, plus miller has beaten monty twice in the ncaa tournament so bringing both gwoz and miller back would be fine with me


  13. Gwoz rocks. I honestly don’t know whether Gwoz is the right fit for the job anymore, but I love the guy and what he did for DU hockey. Monty has accomplished what he has accomplished, not only because Monty is a great coach…but in large part also because of what Gwoz did before him.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. According to Brad Schlossman, an excellent hockey writer in Grand Forks, David Carle was offered the University of Alaska – Anchorage job but turned it down.

    Don’t jump to conclusions on the Rangers. Lots of candidates and time before that decision is made.


  15. with the wide gap from the top to bottom teams in college hockey right now, going from du to uaa would be like going from the major leagues to rookle ball, not surprised he turned them down


  16. David Carle grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, so that’s not the reason he would turn down UAA. There have been reports that two candidates so far, Carle and Cam Ellsworth, have both turned down the UAA job. That dual turndown is unusual and leads me to believe that that there are serious, ongoing issues with the program there.

    My own guess is that either the financial support/institutional commitment to the UAA hockey program is not sufficient enough for these prospective coaches to sign. UAA already took a terrible recruiting hit a while ago when it was rumored that the program could be merged with UAF’s program as a cost-saving ploy by the Alaska government, so the program may still be on shaky ground…

    Liked by 1 person

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