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Dallas Stars name Rick Bowness head coach

The Dallas Stars officially named Rick Bowness as their head coach on Thursday.

Bowness had been the interim coach since Dec. 10, 2019, when Jim Montgomery was fired for "unprofessional conduct." Bowness coached Dallas to a 20-13-5 record in 38 regular-season games before leading the Stars on a run to the Stanley Cup Final. The Stars lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

"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 Final," general manager Jim Nill said in a statement. "Watching the team throughout our playoff experience, you really saw the team become his. His ability to connect with our players and our staff is remarkable, and it leads to a situation where everyone is competing for him because they want to see him win."

Bowness, 65, is the NHL's oldest head coach. Before joining the Stars, he was an associate coach with the Lightning for five seasons. He also has been a head coach with the Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes, and has a 143-302-48-8 record in 501 career regular-season games.

"This team is very special for 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," Bowness said in a statement. "We had a great run to the Stanley Cup Final, but we have some unfinished business left and we're looking forward to the opportunity to build on what we started."

Nill has been on the job since 2013 and is now on his fourth head coach, having previously cycled through Lindy Ruff (2013-17), Ken Hitchcock (2017-18) and Montgomery (2018-19). The Stars have long been defined by their two star players, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who are both under contract through at least 2024-25, with a combined cap hit of nearly $20 million. However, the 2020 postseason run marked an emergence for some of the team's ascending stars, like 21-year-old defenseman Miro Heiskanen and 23-year-old forwards Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov.

Bowness helped tweak the Stars' schemes, helping his defensemen get more involved in rushes, which led to more offensive production. In the postseason, Heiskanen (26 points) and fellow defenseman John Klingberg (21 points) were the Stars' leading scorers. The Stars averaged just 2.58 goals per game in the regular season but adapted to each opponent they faced in the postseason -- including averaging four goals a game in their second-round win against the Colorado Avalanche.

Bowness' hiring completes the hiring cycle for the 2020-21 NHL season, with the expansion Seattle Kraken holding the only head-coaching vacancy.