Former Stars coach, fired by Dallas in December, gets second chance to coach
in NHL; Blues lose Bill Armstrong to Arizona; Tarasenko surgery went well
By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong crossed all the T's and dotted all the I's.
ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong crossed all the T's and dotted all the I's.
And it didn't take long for the Blues' general manager to know that Jim Montgomery was a fit to be added as an assistant coach to Craig Berube's staff.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues assistant coach Jim Montgomery was hired on
Montgomery was fired as coach of the Dallas Stars on Dec. 10 for what was termed unprofessional conduct and he later admitted he checked into rehab for alcohol abuse. Montgomery, who guided the Stars last postseason to a seven-game series loss to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Blues in the second round, is nine months sober.
"I think it was openness to his whole career, not just how it ended but how it began," Armstrong said of Montgomery. "We obviously got into how it ended in Dallas. He was very forthright, gave me contacts of support people that he's using, doctors that I could contact. Everyone deserves a second chance. Everybody on this call has made mistakes. It's how your respond from those mistakes and I wanted to make sure that first and foremost, it doesn't matter how good of a coach you are if you're not coming from an environment that's healthy and he's got everything in order that way. His family was supportive of his decision. From a hockey perspective, it was an easy sell because of all the experiences.
"We started out and we were looking for qualified individuals. That was first and foremost. We were looking to hire the best coach for our team and every coach has different things and reasons they're available. Jim's reason he was available was for something that happened away from the rink. So I just said to him, 'We all make mistakes. If we can afford you the opportunity to get back into something that you love, then we can do that and understand that our goal is to make sure that mistake never happens again.' At the rink is so secondary to all of our lives away from the rink and away from the media outlets that you work for. It wasn't only that we were looking to give the guy a second chance, it's just basically one of the things that the reason Jim was available, we had to address."
Armstrong and Montgomery spoke multiple times and continued to move towards a fit in trying to help resurrect Montgomery's name back into the coaching ranks. Montgomery, whose wife Emily is in St. Louis and the couple had already moved here with their four kids, began his playing career with the Blues in 1993-94 when he signed as a free agent out of the University of Maine.
"Jimmy has a long history in the NHL as a player, had him in the coaching ranks in the USHL, went to college and won a national championship in Denver and back to the NHL with Dallas as a head coach," Armstrong said. "He's got a really good reputation as a strong and powerful coach. He had some personal issues he had to take care of, left the game last year. I talked to Jimmy, I talked to his wife, talked to people surrounding his support staff. It was an extensive background check and an extensive process to make sure that away from the rink, Jim was ready to handle the demands that go into coaching and everything came back very positive. Had an opportunity to take to people that I know from my days in Dallas about him as a coach and everything came back very positive, so I think he's a very good addition to our staff. I know Craig's excited to have someone with his experience down there and it's only going to enhance the coaching of MIke Van Ryn and Steve Ott, two coaches that I think have certainly NHL coaching abilities down the road. It just gives those guys an opportunity to work with a former head coach and someone that can help our team out with Sean Ferrell and David Alexander. I think our coaching staff is very strong and in very good hands."
Montgomery, who ironed out the details of his hiring rather quickly, is expected to fill the role vacared by Savard, who handled the Blues' third-ranked power play this past season.
"I would say over a couple weeks. I had a chance to talk to Jim on a few different occasions," Armstrong said. "The Marc Savard thing, when Marc left, we had an option, we extended our option, we were certainly hoping to have him back, but he decided for his own reasons that he needed to step back from coaching in the NHL. That obviously created an opening and at that point, Bill and I decided that the process that you use, you put out a checklist, not names, but what we want to see in a coach and then you put initials of people's names that fit that and Jimmy's name kept fitting a number of the boxes as far as experience at the NHL level, understanding of the things Craig will want on a day to day basis and being able to talk that same talk because he's been there.
"Initially I think that (filling Savard's role) was the thought going in. I'll let Craig make those decisions of who's on the bench, what areas, how he wants to distribute the responsibilities. At the end of the day from my perspective, Craig is the person we all hold accountable for the goaltending, power play, penalty kill, defense, offense. He's the head coach. How he wants to delegate those roles for his staff, that's up to him."
As one member comes on board, another departs.
Bill Armstrong, who has served as the assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting with the Blues, officially was hired Thursday as the general manager of the Arizona Coyotes.
Bill Armstrong has been instrumental in a role once held by Jarmo Kekalainen, who moved on to become the GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"I'd like to congratulate Bill Armstrong taking the position of general manager of the Arizona Coyotes," Doug Armstrong said. "It's a great opportunity for Billy. He worked here before I got here, he became our director of amateur scouting when Jarmo Kekalainen left, added the assistant general manager duties over the last couple of years, has really had his fingerprints all over the success that we've had the last decade. He's earned the opportunity to manage in this league. I look forward to working with him in a different avenue as manager with manager, but I want to congratulate Bill and thank him and wish him nothing but the best.
"With that information, Tony Feltrin, who's on our amateur scouting staff, has a long history in the NHL running drafts with the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, he'll take both hands on the wheel on this year's entry draft. We'll have Danny Ginnell riding shotgun with him to get us through this draft and after that, we'll sit down and turn to a new course moving forward for next season. Obviously with the uncertainty of the 2020-21 season, not only in the NHL but in all youth hockey starting there, there's no rush to make a decision there. Tony Feltrin will lead our drafts in two weeks and the rest of our staff and we're looking forward to having a very successful draft."
Bill Armstrong said in a statement he's looking forward to the opportunity.
"I am extremely grateful to [Coyotes owner, chairman and governor Alex] Meruelo, Alex Meruelo Jr., and Xavier Gutierrez for this opportunity," Bill Armstrong said. "We have great ownership that is committed to winning, a very good core group of young, talented players, and a passionate fan base. I'm excited about our future and the opportunity to build this team into a perennial playoff contender."
This year's NHL Draft will be done virtually Oct. 6-7. Feltrin, for the time being, will be in charge of handling draft decisions until the Blues sit down after this year's draft to reaccess things.
"Our list is done," Doug Armstrong said. "We did make an agreement with Arizona and with Bill that he won't participate in any fashion with this year's draft with Arizona. All the work that he's done is basically information for the St. Louis Blues, so he won't be able to assist in any draft selections for Arizona for this year. I'm very comfortable with Arizona's excellent understanding the importance of a draft and understanding why we couldn't allow Bill to participate. He will have the ability to make trades obviously and do all the other general manager duties, but he won't have any access to when they call a name, it's going to be on a list they've prepared before Bill got there.
"Tony Feltrin has been on our staff for a while. He's running the draft and he's had the same title with the Rangers and a big part of drafts with the New York Islanders. He's going to grab the wheel at this year's draft. Danny Ginnell, someone that's been here for a long time, is going to ride shotgun. We have an experienced staff. It'll be seamless for this year's draft in a sense that our list is done. Any trades that we want to make, moving up, moving back, or we tweak our list a little bit, and then after the draft, I'm going to sit down and talk to our group. ... Quite honestly, it's very difficult to be in this new world. I'm not looking forward to rush into anything over this next month or so. This is Tony Feltrin's job moving forward and once we get to the draft, we're going to see if we're playing, when we're playing, what leagues are playing. There's a whole host of things that's going to go into making our next decision. Nothing's right around the corner."
* NOTES -- Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko had successful surgery to repair a recurring dislocated shoulder injury, according to Doug Armstrong.
The initial prognosis is that Tarasenko, who missed all but 10 regular-season games this season and played in four postseason games before being sent back to St. Louis for further tests, is still on a five-month timeline to be reevaluated.
"Talking to the trainer two days ago, he said that it went well and he's on the road to recovery," Doug Armstrong said of Tarasenko. "The first month on this process is relatively slow. I haven't seen him since he's been back. I know I'll be running into him here soon and Vladi is a tireless worker when it comes to rehab. Everything went well in the surgery.
"That is the timeline the doctors felt will be a good time to re-eveluate will be five months. That made me feel that it was a successful surgery because they didn't find anything extensive when they went into it."
Doug Armstrong also said the Blues "had a couple guys that needed to get cleaned up a little bit. I don't really want to mention their names in talking to them about doing it, but everyone will be ready for training camp when it's up and ready."