We’re continuing down the list of potential candidates that Boston College could hire to replace the legendary Jerry York, and we’re on to an intriguing option — former NCAA and NHL head coach Jim Montgomery.
Let’s get this out in the open now. Jim Montgomery was one of the hottest coaches in the sport until his firing in December 2019 as head coach of the Dallas Stars.
At the time, there weren’t many details as to what led to his dismissal, other than that it was due to “unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League,” and that it was not related to any criminal conduct nor player abuse. A few weeks later, Montgomery voluntarily checked into rehab for alcohol abuse, and shortly after, it was reported that his firing was indeed due to concerns about his drinking.
Montgomery has since returned to the bench as assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues, and by all accounts has been doing well since he’s begun his recovery. He deserves nothing less than full admiration for acknowledging his problem and seeking out help.
Why he’d be interested:
Sure, it’d be pretty uncommon for an NHL head coach to be back in the NCAA just a couple years later, but obviously this is an uncommon set of circumstances. There’s a good case to be made that there’s more prestige in being the head coach for one of the top programs in all of college hockey compared to being an NHL assistant.
Let’s also not forget that he hasn’t been out of college hockey that long, either. If it only feels like a few years ago that Montgomery was national coach of the year at Denver and led the Pioneers to the national championship, that’s because it was — the Pios won the title in 2017 with him behind the bench, and he had another successful season in 2018 before getting hired as head coach of the Stars.
Why it could work:
From a strictly coaching perspective, it’s hard to imagine how it couldn’t work. Everything Jim Montgomery has touched in his coaching career has turned to gold:
- Two USHL championships with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in his three seasons there, from 2010-11 to 2012-13
- Five NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons with the Denver Pioneers, from 2013-14 to 2017-18
- Two Frozen Fours with the Pios
- A national championship with the Pios
- A national coach of the year award with the Pios
- Immediately led the Dallas Stars to the playoffs in his first season as head coach, Dallas’ first appearance in three seasons
This would be a pretty big swing-for-the-fences type hire of an experienced, wildly successful coach. Boston College is a college hockey Big Dog — this would certainly be them acting like one.
Why it could flop:
The main reason that the hire could potentially not work out is if Montgomery struggles to adjust to the changing college hockey recruiting landscape. A coach needs to walk the tightrope to find the right mix of four year players and stud one-and-done freshmen, something Boston College has clearly struggled to do for a while now. But this is true of any potential hire — the landscape continues to shift, sure, but that 2017 title really wasn’t all that long ago.
How likely is this hire?
It's a longshot. First off, Jim Montgomery doesn't have any connection to BC. That's going to be a factor. Also, Boston College hasn’t been known to hire coaches with any sort of so-called “baggage,” no matter the sport. But this isn’t your typical baggage. Anyone who knows anyone that has begun their recovery from alcohol abuse speaks of them with an extra bit of pride. It takes a particularly strong person to make that turnaround.
On top of BC’s potential reluctance to kick the tires, Montgomery himself might not be interested in returning to a college campus anyway, for all we know, now that he’s gotten his foot into the NHL door. So there’s a potential roadblock on each side of the table here that could nip interest in a deal in the bud before it even begins. Still, the administration would be doing the program a disservice to not open the door to what would be a splash hire.