-- Scotty Bowman has seen it all during his 50-plus years in professional hockey. But he's not quite sure if he's seen anything as amazing as what's happening with the Chicago Blackhawks
Just three seasons ago, the roster was scattered with players who were barely old enough to see an R-rated movie by themselves and finished 2007-08 outside of the playoff picture. Now those kids have grown and developed into the best team in the Western Conference after ousting the San Jose Sharks
in four games in the conference final Sunday.
"Yeah, it's not easy to start in the League at 18," Bowman said of Patrick Kane
and Jonathan Toews
, though Toews made his debut three seasons ago as a 19-year-old. "And for two, it's even tougher."
Bowman, who became the senior adviser of hockey operations for the Blackhawks in July 2008, said coach Joel Quenneville
figured out pretty quickly after taking over for Denis Savard
last season that he had a pretty unique group of players.
"Joel said part way through the year, and nobody knows the team like the coach because they're there day by day, he said it was a special group," Bowman recalled while standing in the Blackhawks' dressing room after Game 4. "It's tough when you have a bunch of young players and they're all getting better at the same time. I don't want to say keep them grounded, but they have to keep themselves grounded, and this team has."
Bowman is in search of his 10th Stanley Cup ring thanks mostly to his son, Stan, who has been with the Blackhawks since 2001 but rose to general manager during the offseason once Dale Tallon
was reassigned. Bowman said he wouldn't have been with the Blackhawks organization if not for his son.
Having someone as experienced as Bowman makes his advice for the team all the more resounding.
"You got to watch your distractions, guys like you," Bowman said jokingly to a reporter. "Pretty simple. You got to keep your priorities in order. I think you really have to enjoy it, though. Because it's not easy to get here. I've seen it both ways. Sometimes teams try to shelter them too much from the enjoyment. As long as it's in control, it's fine."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL