Scotty Bowman, Senior Advisor for Hockey Operations, brought his Hall of Fame resume to the Blackhawks in 2008. Now the man with 12 Stanley Cup rings will share his knowledge with this forum, “Ask the Oracle.” Got a question for Ask The Oracle? Submit it here.
Why are some goals in the NHL subject to review and others not? --Jackie Marleau, Montreal, Que.
You must be reading my mind. I don’t understand the protocol either. If the mechanism is in place, which it is, why shouldn’t every goal that is scored – or isn’t scored – be correctly ruled upon? I would be in favor of a coach’s challenge, like the NFL uses. If they had one when I was coaching, I would have loved it, and it is my understanding that there is some conversation about instituting one in the NHL somewhere down the line. The Blackhawks recently played a game in Vancouver, and Dave Bolland scored, but the referees overruled it because they said Troy Brouwer interfered with Roberto Luongo, the Canucks goalie. But Brouwer did not interfere. In that instance, though, the play could not be reviewed. If Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks coach, had a challenge, he could have used a timeout – just like they do in the NFL – and the tape could have been looked at by the people in Toronto who look at all the tapes when a goal is subject to review. It only makes sense to get it right, doesn’t it?
How do you assess the progress of Nick Leddy, the Blackhawks’ young defenseman? --Julius Taglia, Chicago
I like what I see so far. I think he will be fine. He’s only 19, but he sees the ice well, skates well and seems to have that sixth sense you can’t teach. He’s a very safe player, which means he doesn’t make mistakes that can cost you, despite his lack of experience. The worst thing you can do with a prospect like him is bring him up to the NHL and not play him enough. But he’s getting his minutes and is making good use of them. He has a nice shot from the point and doesn’t get it blocked much, which shows he has good anticipation for angles. Being around four defensemen like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson is important for a kid because he can learn just by watching them. Obviously, at that age, your partner is also important. Leddy is on the third set of defensemen now, but he’s shown he belongs and knows how to play. I see a good future for him, a long career if he keeps progressing.
How are players on the ice notified when it’s time for a change? --Eddie Rajczak, Skokie, Ill.
They aren’t. Most teams stress shifts of 30 to 50 seconds, and when it’s the right time for a player to come off, he comes off. By right time, that means when your team is in possession of the puck or play is in your offensive zone. A coach’s job is to designate the next players to go on the ice. If you are a left wing, and you are up next, you wait for the left wing to come off. On the Blackhawks, Joel usually handles the forwards and his assistant, Mike Haviland, is in charge of the defense. Changing on the fly is not a science, but players and coaches have been doing it forever, so they develop a feel for how and when to do it.
Do you expect to see a mixed system in the NHL where there is a salary cap for free agent signings but not a hard cap on homegrown players? --David DiPietro, Algonquin, Ill.
I like that idea 100 percent, and there has been talk about instituting something like a soft cap when the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated. Teams that nurture their own players should get some relief. Teams like the Blackhawks that draft and develop players better than other teams are more susceptible to getting hurt, which is exactly what happened last summer. The NBA has a soft cap, which is why LeBron James could have been paid more by the Cleveland team he was playing for than he was paid by the Miami Heat, where he chose to go as a free agent. As I said, there is discussion of flaws in our current system, and it will be interesting to see what happens.
You’ve coached a lot of great players. Could you give me the Scotty Bowman All-Star team? --Jim Syoen, Chicago
Oh, that’s a tough one because I’ve been lucky to coach so many great ones, as you say. If I had to name three forwards, they would be Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Guy Lafleur. Defense, Nicklas Lidstrom was terrific in Detroit and still is. But we had three in Montreal who were amazing: Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard and Larry Robinson. During my years there, they averaged 37 goals a season, or almost one every two games from that trio. Ken Dryden was great in goal for the Canadiens; we won a Cup with Dominik Hasek in Detroit; in Pittsburgh, Tom Barrasso was very underrated. But if I had to name one, I’d pick Glenn Hall, who put us on the map in St. Louis. Chicago let him go because he was talking about retiring, and we were lucky to get him for the Blues in the expansion draft. He was terrific for four years, we went to three Stanley Cup finals because of him, and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs, even though we were swept in the finals. Plus, he was a great guy in the locker room and around fans in a new city. Everybody loved him, including the coach.