On Oct. 29, the Dallas Stars named Rick Bowness their 24th head coach in franchise history. The decision came after Bowness led the Stars to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final and a 20-13-5 regular-season record in 2019-20 after he took over as interim coach on Dec. 19. He joined the team after the Stars fired Jim Montgomery for unprofessional conduct.
Before he became an associate coach in Dallas in 2018, Bowness spent five seasons in a similar position for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that defeated the Stars in the Stanley Cup Final.
Bowness’ Coaching Roots
Bowness has served on the coaching staff of seven other NHL teams: the Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, and Lightning. Of these seven, he was the head coach of the Senators, Bruins, Jets, Islanders, and was an interim head coach for the Coyotes.
His first coaching job was as a player-coach, and the first head coach, of the Jets’ AHL affiliate, Sherbrooke Jets. He played the 1982-83 season before stepping down from his coaching position to play one final season before he retired. Bowness then joined Winnipeg as an assistant coach during the 1984-85 season and was promoted to head coach in the 1988-89 season.
After leaving the Jets organization at the conclusion of the 1988-89 season, Bowness bounced around the NHL serving on coaching staffs of several organizations.
Through the many years he spent coaching on so many different staffs, Bowness gained tons of valuable experience and because of this is one of the most experienced coaches in the league.
Time in Tampa
However, the time he spent in Tampa is what is most interesting to Stars fans following Dallas’ disappointing end to the postseason run.
Bowness was initially hired by the Lightning on July 3, 2013 after he was fired from his assistant coaching role in Vancouver. Before being hired by Dallas, he spent five seasons with the Lightning but was dismissed by the team after the team’s general manager at the time, Steve Yzerman, criticized the team’s defense.
What Bowness Brings to Dallas
His five seasons spent with Tampa proved extremely valuable to the Stars when it came to the Stanley Cup Final. It can be assumed that Bowness had a very good idea of what Tampa’s strategies were going to be going into the finals because of the amount of time he spent within the organization. While the way Tampa operates on a coaching level most likely would have changed since Bowness left the organization, he still has a stronger understanding of the way the Lightning operates internally than the rest of the coaching staff. Although Dallas did eventually fall to the Lightning, they put up a strong fight and forced a game six to try to give themselves a fighting chance.
An important thing to note is that even without that prior experience in the Lightning organization, Bowness is a very weathered veteran coach who knows what he’s doing. Having a seasoned veteran head coach is so beneficial for any team but especially a team like Dallas who already has a strong core leadership group who doesn’t necessarily need a coach to walk them through everything.
While Dallas has strong player leadership, they still need a good captain at the helm to reinforce that leadership and to make sure the team stays on the right path, and Bowness has provided that perfectly throughout his time so far with the team.
When Stars general manager Jim Nill addressed the media after the decision was announced, he praised Bowness and his ability to step up to the plate for the team after they had to go separate ways with their previous head coach so abruptly.
“After being called upon in a difficult situation, Rick stepped into the interim head coaching role seamlessly and used his unmatched experience to lead the team to a successful second half of the season and a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals”NHl.com
As a result of the abrupt nature of the departure of Montgomery, everyone in the organization had to adjust to the changes. Bowness certainly helped this transition happen more smoothly than I think anyone could have imagined. He fit in perfectly as head coach with the team and as a result Stars, players were able to adjust to the changes smoothly as well.
It’s clear that Bowness stepped up majorly as he led the team to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since the 1999-00 season.
During a time that was all so abnormal for everyone involved, Bowness was able to step up and guide the team all the way to Dame 6 of the Stanley Cup Final before they were eliminated. All while some of Dallas’ star players were battling injures as revealed after the team left the bubble.
When Bowness was asked about how he felt about being named head coach, he expressed his love and gratitude for the team.
“This team is very special to me, that time in Edmonton was unlike any experience I have ever had in hockey, and it brought us together as a staff and as a team”NHL.com
The Future for Bowness and Dallas
Going forward, it seems Dallas trusts Bowness’ ability to lead their team to another Stanley Cup Final appearance and hopefully a Stanley Cup win and it’s clear to see why. Bowness was able to step up for the team in such a difficult time given the circumstances of Montgomery’s departure from the team. Not only was Bowness able to keep the Stars afloat, but he was also able to give the team the chance to thrive in what turned out to be such a bizarre season. Naming Bowness head coach is a smart decision and a decision that I think will end up benefiting the Stars greatly.