July 1: With Stevens’ contract expiring with the Kings, the Stars have officially added him to their staff.
June 11: The Dallas Stars and head coach Jim Montgomery are making a major addition, and free agency hasn’t even started. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that Dallas is set to hire former Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Stevens as an assistant on Montgomery’s staff. Stevens was considered one of the top available coaches this off-season and will be a major addition for the Stars.
It should not come as much of a surprise that Montgomery and Stevens are back together. As Friedman notes, the pair have a considerable shared history. Both Montgomery and Stevens played together on the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms in the late 90’s during what would be the final years of Stevens’ playing career due to a career-ending injury. Stevens would then become an assistant coach during Montgomery’s final year with the team. As Montgomery himself later transitioned into coaching, he led the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints as head coach and general manager for several years, during which time he would recruit and coach John Stevens Jr., who currently plays for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Of course, the two friends also coached against each other early this past season as well, as Montgomery’s Stars defeated Stevens’ Kings 4-2 in late October in one of Stevens’ final games at the helm.
Stevens’ stint as the head coach in L.A. was arguably cut short too early. In his first full season of duty in 2017-18, the Kings went 45-29-8 and made the playoffs, before a disappointing sweep by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. The team then started last season off 4-8-1, after which Stevens was fired and replaced with Willie Desjardins, who himself has now been replaced by Todd McLellan. Stevens still maintained a winning record as head coach of the Kings and holds the same distinction as an NHL head coach overall, despite finishing just below .500 in aggregate over parts of four seasons as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2006 to 2010. Stevens has a strong grasp on defense and has often led teams that play a safe, conservative game, even if that doesn’t always lead to the offense needed to win games. Combined with Mongtomery’s eye for offense and the Stars’ substantial talent, Stevens has the chance to be a major difference-maker in Dallas and it is not a stretch to say he could be an NHL head coach again someday if things go well in this next stop.
As a stars fan I would have rather just kept McLellan.