The Dallas Stars magic number for a playoff spot is at 1. 1 point and they secure their playoff spot. The team is finally getting healthy at just the right time with Tyler Pitlick returning Saturday night and Mats Zuccarello close to being back.
The goaltending continues to be phenomenal and the offense is starting to put it together scoring 3 goals or more in 3 of their last 4 games. The Stars stepped up and finished March with 20 points, by far their best month of the season. Many people deserve credit for getting the Stars to where they are now. Among those people on the list, Jim Montgomery deserves to be on that list. The rookie NHL coach was maligned for much of the season, rightfully so, for some questionable line choices and the inconsistency of the team. Many people questioned whether this was the right man for the job and some were even calling for his job midway through the season.
Monty deserves to be at the top of the list for getting this team where he did, given that Ken Hitchcock could not last season. Here are a few reasons why fans should give Monty some love.
Esa Lindell is having a career year with 30 points including 20 goals this season. Miro’s greatness and transition to the NHL. Roope Hintz finding a goal-scoring stroke and being given the opportunity to not only stay in the NHL but also thrive. Jason Dickinson becoming a mainstay in the lineup and helping contribute by being a solid bottom six center for the Stars and even contributing some overtime heroics this season. Talent is only a part of the equation for player development. Coaching and the ability to get that talent out of the player is a crucial part of that equation. Monty certainly helped get the best out of these players and it has paid off. The Big 4 of Seguin, Radulov, Klingberg, and Benn were always going to be able to do what they do best, but getting the guys around them and helping make them better is why the Stars are in the position they are right now and will hopefully see them playing into May.
The lack of development of Julius Honka is a fair critique, but it seems like his time in Dallas is over given his struggles under 3 different coaching staffs. Sometimes a player does not fit the organization and for both the player and team’s sake, both parties should move on and go their separate ways.
Inconsistent Lineups Paying Dividends
A common criticism of Monty was how he was consistently juggling lines not just from game to game, but even within the game. It was the cause of the team’s inability to play consistent, quality hockey. The communication between the skaters was often non-existent and it was frustrating for the fans and the players because winning hockey was not being played.
While it was not successful in helping generate offense and helping the Stars win games early on, it actually was an important part of the team development. Monty now has options with his lineups depending on the opponent and the flow of the game. Instead of it being perceived as a panic move, it can now be viewed more as a strategic move. In the Vancouver game, Monty juggled his lines and it led to the team coming back from a 2 goal deficit to force overtime. On a back to back against Edmonton, the lines were juggled within the game and the Stars came back to steal the game in a shootout.
If the skaters are able to shuffle around and play with anyone, the Stars can dictate match-ups to the other team forcing them to adjust and possibly make mistakes which Dallas is fully capable of exploiting. Whoever the Stars matchup against in the first round will be a tough out, but thanks to the interchangeability of the Stars lineup, Dallas will not be an easy out either.
Jim Montgomery seemed to be in over his head midway through the season. The Jim Lites comments and the team struggling to keep their heads above water would have made it easy for his team to fold and the discussion surrounding the team would be about the playoffs, but more about how this team missed out for a 3rd straight year.
Instead, he helped lead this team to survive all the adversity and find themselves on the doorstep to playing in the playoffs and bringing some good vibes to Dallas. Much like the youth of the Dallas Stars, Jim Montgomery has grown and developed right along with them and it will be fun to see what he can do in the playoffs and for years to come.
Featured Image: Matthew DeFranks, SportsDay, AP Photo/David Zalubowski