Bobby Kromm, who coached the Detroit Red Wings for three seasons after leading the Winnipeg Jets to a World Hockey Association championship, died Wednesday from complications of colon cancer. He was 82.
Kromm coached the Red Wings from 1977-80. But it was Kromm's first season in Detroit that is considered as his best -- he led the Wings to a 37-point improvement in the standings from the previous season while becoming the first Wings' coach to earn the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL's coach of the year.
Bill Lochead, and a former first-round draft pick, struggled in his first four seasons with the Red Wings. But under Kromm's tutelage, the 23-year-old Lochead began to flourish on a scoring line with Dale McCourt and Paul Woods.
"It was a nice, refreshing thing, I think, for our whole team to have a coach come in and want to blend the speed and skill with the toughness," said Lochead, who enjoyed his only 20-goal NHL season in 1977-78, told the Red Wings' Web site.
"That's why we had that successful season," he said.
The Red Wings finished with a 32-34-14 record in 1977-78, and returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a seven-year absence. They defeated the Atlanta Flames in a best-of-3 preliminary-round series before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in the second round.
In Kromm's first season, the Red Wings scored 69 more goals and allowed 42 fewer than they had in 1976-77. They went from having two 20-goal scorers (Walt McKechnie and Michel Bergeron) in 1976-77 to four (McCourt, Lochead, Andre St. Laurent and Nick Libett) in '77-78.
"Bobby came in and took our strengths and played to our strengths," Lochead said. "And he got everything out of the team that I think was possible."
Prior to joining the Red Wings, Kromm enjoyed a successful coaching run with the WHA Jets, where he led a team that included Bobby Hull, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg to victory against the New England Whalers in the 1976 Avco Cup. Kromm also led the Dallas Black Hawks to the Central League finals five times, winning championships in 1969 and 1974.
"He came in and had an upbeat scale of hockey," Lochead said. "I don't want to say that he was ahead of his time, but after being with Winnipeg with the two Swedes and Bobby Hull I think he made it a prime part of his concept. That was to a large part how we beat Atlanta, and for that matter, how we made it a series with Montreal."
Kromm is survived by his wife, Geraldine; children, David, Robin, Richard and Michelle, and eight grandchildren.