Throughout May and possibly into June, we’ll look at potential candidates for the Flyers’ head coaching vacancy.
“We’re going to sit down and try to build that ideal candidate profile and really keep all options open, maybe look at it from a little broader perspective,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said May 3. “Clearly we have to sit down and really drill down in terms of what we’re looking for. I’m sure there will be a lot of quality candidates we’ll speak to.”
Why Montgomery would be a fit
Montgomery, who turns 53 years old in June, did some impressive work during parts of two seasons leading the Stars.
In Year 1 of his first-ever NHL coaching gig, he took a Dallas team that had missed the postseason the previous two years to the second round of the 2019 playoffs. The Stars went 43-32-7 during the 2018-19 regular season and lost to the eventual champion Blues in a double overtime Game 7.
Following a 17-11-3 start in 2019-20, Montgomery was fired for unprofessional conduct. Not long after, he entered a rehabilitation facility for alcohol abuse. Montgomery called Dallas’ decision “the appropriate call,” forcing him to “look into the mirror.”
Montgomery has bounced back through sobriety, which you can read about here in a story by Mike Chambers of the Denver Post. Montgomery, who jumped to the NHL from the college ranks at Denver, is currently in his second season as an assistant coach for the Blues. St. Louis opens its second-round playoff series tonight against the Avalanche.
Montgomery has some Philly ties. He played 13 career games for the Flyers and 159 for the Phantoms.
His preferred style of play as a head coach addresses what the Flyers have sorely been missing the last two seasons. He likes to utilize a puck-possession game in which stingy defense is all created by the way you play offensively. In his first and only full season with Dallas, the Stars yielded the NHL’s second-fewest goals per game at 2.44 and had a top-five penalty kill at 82.8 percent.
Over back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs, the Flyers have surrendered 3.56 goals per game, tied for worst in the league.
“Clearly injuries were a significant part of things, but I think it goes a little bit deeper than that,” Fletcher said of the Flyers’ 25-46-11 finish this season. “We just really struggled this year. We were defending all the time and that’s something we have to look at. We weren’t exiting D-zone well enough. So there are certainly things we have to look at in terms of our structure, our details. We didn’t have the puck enough and when you defend all the time, bad things happen.”
Why Montgomery wouldn’t be a fit
Is Montgomery ready to be a head coach again? If the Flyers peg him as a candidate, it’s a question they’ll be looking to answer.
Ultimately, Montgomery is the best person to answer that question. One would think it’s yes considering he has addressed a significant challenge in his life and has previously shown he can have success at this level.
But personal challenge aside, Montgomery does lack experience and, given their predicament, the Flyers could be eyeing a coach with a lengthy track record. They’re not in a position to get too cute with such a major decision after missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94.
Similar to Montgomery, Alain Vigneault had a possession-oriented system that worked for the Flyers but then quickly fizzled.
All things considered, it’s possible the Flyers won’t see Montgomery as their best fit and he might not see them as his best fit.
But a mutual interest would not be surprising.
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