Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said interim coach Rick Bowness has “earned the right” to return as head coach next season, after the Stars reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2000.
“Rick and I have both agreed from the start that we’ll sit down at the end of this and we’ll digest everything. Go through it,” Nill said Tuesday. “He definitely has earned the right to come back as the coach.”
Bowness, 65, was promoted to interim coach on Dec. 10, 2019, after they fired head coach Jim Montgomery for “unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.” Montgomery entered an inpatient residential program for alcohol abuse in January.
The Stars went 20-13-5 under Bowness before the NHL season was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nill said it was during that nearly five-month pause that Bowness and his staff impressed him with their preparation for the postseason.
“When the pandemic hit, they were really able to put their stamp on the team,” he said.
Dallas emerged from the round-robin tournament in Edmonton as the No. 3 seed in the West. They defeated the Calgary Flames in six games, eliminated the Colorado Avalanche in seven and then won the Western Conference title in five games over the Vegas Golden Knights, winning 3-2 in overtime on Monday night.
Bowness has said that he hasn’t considered whether the Stars’ postseason success will impact his status for next season.
“That never enters into it,” Bowness said before the conference finals. “Jim Nill and I have an agreement. We’ll talk about it at the end of the year and that’s all that matters. I haven’t even given that any thought. There’s no time for that. I tell our players [that] we stay in the moment. I want our coaches to stay in the moment as well.”
“When you watch a team play, you can tell who they’re playing for. This team is playing for the coach, and the coach is coaching for the players. That’s a great reflection on everybody,” Nill said.