Bowness, Stars to begin contract talks next week to return as coach

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Rick Bowness will meet with the Dallas Stars next week to begin negotiations about returning as coach.

General manager Jim Nill said Thursday that Bowness earned the right to remain the coach after taking over when Jim Montgomery was fired Dec. 10 and is confident Bowness will have interest.

“I’m very comfortable with Rick Bowness being our coach,” Nill said. “These are his players now. That’s the type of relationship he has, and as far as I know he wants to come back, and we’ll move forward with that.

“When we were in the bubble, you watched how our team played, they played hard, they played as hard as any team in the playoffs, they were organized. You can tell they played for their coach, and their coach loved to coach them.”

The 65-year-old is the oldest coach in the NHL. He was hired as assistant coach June 22, 2018 and named interim coach when Montgomery was fired due to unprofessional conduct. The Stars went 20-13-5 in their final 38 regular-season games under Bowness, finishing third in the Central Division (37-24-8, .594 points percentage) and qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He led the Stars to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2000.

“What I learned is that I still have the passion to compete, I still have the passion to coach, that’s what I’ve learned,” Bowness said after the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Stars 2-0 in Game 6 on Sept. 28 to win the Cup. “I know I’m getting up there, there’s more behind me than ahead of me, but I still have the passion. That’s the most important thing. I’ve always told my family, the day I wake up and don’t want to go to the rink, then I know the passion’s gone, and we’re not there yet. So, I’m just going to keep pushing.”

Nill also said all the Stars’ assistant coaches — Todd Nelson, John Stevens, Derek Laxdal, goaltending coach Jeff Reese and video coach Kelly Forbes — are under contract and expected to return next season, which is targeted to begin Jan. 1, 2021.

“They’re a big part of our success,” Nill said. “Rick and they have a great relationship. We were organized, the team played hard, we were two games from the Stanley Cup. It’s hard to go that far and not win it, but I loved how our team played, how organized we were, and that’s a compliment to our coaching staff, including the assistant coaches.”

Bowness had not been a head coach since he replaced Bob Francis for the final 20 games with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2003-04. Since then, he’s been an assistant with the Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Lightning and Stars.

He is 142-302-8 with 48 ties as coach with the Stars, Coyotes, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets. He is 23-19-0 in 42 postseason games.

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