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Bowman guided Pens and Wings to Cup success

by John McGourty

Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman led both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup.
The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, who begin the 2008 Stanley Cup Final Saturday (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio), have more than just the quest for the Cup in common.

Each franchise achieved great success under the guidance of Hockey Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, the last man to coach either franchise to a championship. Bowman recently chatted with about his time behind both benches. He looks back on his time in both cities with fond memories and great satisfaction.

Bowman led the Red Wings to Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002 while compiling a 410-195-88-8 record from 1993-02. He won the 1992 Stanley Cup with the Penguins, whom he coached to a 95-53-16 record in two seasons.

Bowman coached the Montreal Canadiens to five Stanley Cups in the 1970s and then coached the Buffalo Sabres for seven seasons from 1979-87. He became director of player development for the Penguins in 1990 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991, when Bob Johnson coached the Penguins to the franchise's first Stanley Cup. 

Johnson fell ill that summer and died in the fall. Bowman went back behind the bench and coached the Penguins to a repeat championship. He coached them again the following season to the team's best-ever record, but they were upset by the New York Islanders in the Patrick Division Final.

Bowman then accepted an offer to coach the Red Wings. The team had been a high-scoring contender in the regular season, but without much success in the playoffs. The Red Wings won Stanley Cups in his fourth and fifth seasons and then again in his last. He remains with the club as a consultant and speaks with coach Mike Babcock on an almost daily basis.

"The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and then Bob got sick around August while he was coaching the American team in the Canada Cup," Bowman recalled. "He started getting headaches, then found out it was a brain tumor. Craig Patrick, the Pittsburgh general manager, had hired Bob and I on the same day in 1990, when I was anxious to get back into hockey and very pleased I wouldn't have to coach anymore.

"With Bob sick, Craig and I, the whole franchise, was trying to keep things positive that Bob could beat this. Craig asked me to be interim coach and conduct training camp. I was in constant touch with Bob. Unfortunately, things got worse and Bob passed away at Thanksgiving.

"At that point, as a team, we weren't doing what we wanted to do and were around .500. We weren't in disarray but we were shook up by the terrible tragedy. Craig asked me to stick with it and get it back on track. We felt we owed it to Bob to not bring someone in right after he passed away and it wasn't a situation for a young coach.

"Craig made several trades to get Rick Tocchet, a tough winger, strengthened the defense with Kjell Samuelsson and got Ken Wregget to back up goalie Tom Barrasso. Mark Recchi went to Philadelphia and Paul Coffey went to Los Angeles. I tried to stay with Bob's style of play and we made the Playoffs. We got behind in the first round against the Washington Capitals and then got on a roll and won our last 11 playoff games to win the Stanley Cup.

"I enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh with Bob Johnson and (assistant coaches) Rick Kehoe and Rick Patterson, and then assistants Barry Smith and Pierre McGuire. Pittsburgh had never done much in the playoffs and then we won a Stanley Cup and a second one. The fans were terrific, a really good crowd that helped us win some games. They're still doing it. The Penguins have a great home record this year in the playoffs."

Bowman was pleased to receive the offer from an old friend to coach the Red Wings, but he had some concerns about the organization -- which were quickly resolved.

"I was fortunate when I got the call from then-General Manager Jim Devellano," Bowman said. "We went back to our days with the St. Louis Blues. I went off to Montreal after that and he went with the New York Islanders, but we kept in contact. He was looking for an experienced coach. When I met with the owners, Mike and Marian Ilitch, I was looking for stability and they gave it to me. I signed a two-year contract, thinking it would be my last. I lasted nine years as coach and I've been with them for 15 years.

"My first Detroit team could score goals, but was not a threat in the playoffs. They weren't strong defensively. We started to play much better defensively and got everyone on the same page. We had a great captain in Steve Yzerman, the force behind it all.

"Steve was a scoring machine but he did everything himself. Then he became a great two-way player. We started bringing in veteran players who were good defensively, particularly 'The Russian Five' of Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Slava Kozlov.

"With that, the Red Wings had a different concept. They became a puck-possession team. They have kept that and it has worked well in the new NHL.

Under Bowman, the Wings also shuffled some personnel to fit Bowman's philosophy.

"We were also not a good faceoff team, but we had young Kris Draper in our system," he said. "I went down to Hamilton to watch him play on a Sunday and he won darn near every faceoff. We brought him up the next weekend for a 'look-see' -- and he's still there.

"We had too many right wingers in Detroit when I got there. We had Dino Ciccarelli, Marty Lapointe, Ray Sheppard and quite a few others in the minors. We were able to make some trades, sending Sheppard to San Jose for Larionov. We got Fetisov in a trade, and that gave us experience on the back end. We shored up the defense by getting Larry Murphy, Jamie Macoun and Chris Chelios. We got Tomas Sandstrom one year and picked up Doug Brown on waivers. We got Kirk Maltby for Dan McGillis. Lots of small deals that really helped.

"It has continued since I left. (GM) Ken Holland made good deals to get Danny Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson and he got Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood to come back.”

Despite picking late because of their continued success on the ice, the Wings have excelled on draft day. Unlike the Penguins, who boast a lot of high picks, they've been especially good with later-round selections.

The main thrust has been the solid drafting, like getting Kozlov and Konstantinov before the Iron Curtain came down and getting Nick Lidstrom in 1989. In recent years, they've done a great job getting guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The Red Wings have never waited for things to happen; they tried to stay ahead of the curve and it has worked. - Scotty Bowman
"The main thrust has been the solid drafting, like getting Kozlov and Konstantinov before the Iron Curtain came down and getting Nick Lidstrom in 1989," he said. "In recent years, they've done a great job getting guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The Red Wings have never waited for things to happen; they tried to stay ahead of the curve and it has worked.

"The Penguins have built the same way, drafting Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury. And, just as those early '90s Penguins and the Red Wings of the mid-90s, the Penguins have benefited in a big way from trade-deadline deals, getting Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis this year and adding Hal Gill to the defense. When Crosby got hurt, they played in a way that has made them much better defensively. Kris Letang is an underrated player and he's showed his skill in several shootouts this year."

Bowman deflected any praise that he had a lot to do with reviving hockey in Detroit, although many people in hockey believe that that he has.

"The decisions made by Jim Devellano and Ken Holland have had the most to do with it," Bowman said. "The Ilitches put the people in place, like Ken Holland and Jim Nill. A lot of people in that organization could have gone on to other jobs, but they like it where they are and they're treated with respect and treat each other with respect.

"I couldn't have gone to a better place, they way I've been treated and the responsibility I've been given. I've got a great relationship with Mike Babcock, and he and his staff do a great job.

"It wasn't one particular thing that made the Red Wings successful, especially not me," Bowman said. "It was the combined effort of everyone and everything they did."

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