The Dallas Stars have become the next team to fire their head coach this season, dismissing Jim Montgomery today. The Stars did not make this decision due to on-ice performance, however. GM Jim Nill released a statement explaining the move:
The Dallas Stars expect all of our employees to act with integrity and exhibit professional behavior while working for and representing our organization. This decision was made due to unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.
Assistant coach Rick Bowness has been named interim head coach, while Derek Laxdal will move up from the Texas Stars to serve as an assistant with the NHL club. Neil Graham will become the head coach of Texas.
This move comes just after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league “will not tolerate abusive behavior of any kind” and instituted several levels of training for their coaches and executives, along with a hotline for players or employees to report any incidents of abuse. The league, however, was asked directly by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet if there were any ongoing investigations, which they denied. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic also tweets that the Montgomery situation is not related to the program Bettman announced.
The Stars had turned around their season dramatically from a disastrous start and now sit 17-11-3 on the season. The team has lost in regulation just four times in their last 22 games and are just one point out of a divisional playoff spot.
LeBrun reports that Montgomery had two years left on his contract, however it is unclear what kind of termination this is. The Stars used “dismissed” in the release instead of “relieved of coaching duties” as most do when they are honoring the contract.
Bowness, meanwhile, will take over with plenty of experience behind the bench. With nearly 500 games as an NHL head coach and plenty more as an assistant, he will certainly not be overwhelmed by the moment. The Stars will play the New Jersey Devils Tuesday.