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Stars fire coach Montgomery after organization learns of ‘material act of unprofessionalism’

Dallas GM Jim Nill said he became aware of Jim Montgomery's conduct over the weekend, at which point the Stars opened an investigation into the matter and ultimately decided to dismiss the coach. Montgomery was in the second season of a four-year contract with the Stars.

Less than two seasons into his tenure as coach of the Dallas Stars, Jim Montgomery has been let go by the organization as a result of “unprofessional conduct.”

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Stars GM Jim Nill said that the organization expects “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.”

Nill, who hired Montgomery in May 2018, spoke about the coach’s dismissal when meeting with media ahead of Dallas’ Tuesday game against the New Jersey Devils. Nill said he was made aware of a “material act of unprofessionalism” after receiving a call on Sunday, at which point the Stars opened an investigation into the matter and collected the pertinent information. Nill said the organization “went through all the records, information we received…we sat down, we had to digest everything, and, as I mentioned, we talked to general counsel and everything else and made our decision.”

Nill clarified that the incident in question did not involve any past or current players Montgomery has coached, nor any Stars staff. Nill also added that, while he was in contact with the NHL regarding the firing, Montgomery’s firing is not related to the zero tolerance policies outlined by commissioner Gary Bettman following Monday’s Board of Governor meetings and the Stars’ decision was made prior to Bettman’s announcement.

“When you do these things, the important thing is doing the right thing,” Nill told media. “Unfortunately, Jim was my hire…But my job, I’m the leadership of this team, and it’s important to do the right thing and we had to do the right thing in this situation.”

As a result of Montgomery’s firing, the Stars have executed a shuffle of their NHL and AHL coaching staffs. Veteran coach Rick Bowness, who has spent two-plus decades in the NHL and served as associate coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for five seasons before joining Dallas as an assistant in June 2018, has been promoted to interim coach. Meanwhile, Derek Laxdal, coach of the AHL’s Texas Stars, has been moved into an assistant coaching role with the NHL organization and will take over power play duties with the Stars. Texas assistant Neil Graham will step in as the farm club’s bench boss.

Nill said there is no timeline for a new coaching hire and that the current staff will be in place for the remainder of the season.

Montgomery, who won one NCAA championship during his five seasons as coach of University of Denver, was hired by the Stars ahead of the 2018-19 campaign and led Dallas to the second round of the post-season in his first season as an NHL coach. After a rocky start to the campaign – the Stars won only once in their first nine games – Montgomery had guided the Stars back into a post-season position over the past several weeks. With a 16-4-2 record in their past 22 games, Montgomery’s Stars had climbed into fourth place in the Central Division and into the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

According to CapFriendly, Montgomery had the remainder of this season plus another two campaigns remaining on the four-year, $6.4-million contract he signed with the Stars.

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