When Scotty Bowman came to the Detroit Red Wings as head coach in 1993, they were coming off a humiliating first-round defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs and were forging a reputation around the league as a group of talented underachievers.
And while the transformation didn’t happen overnight, Bowman played a huge role in making the Red Wings the most successful and Stanley Cup-decorated team of the past decade.
“When he got to Detroit, we had a lot of talented players,” said Red Wings GM Ken Holland. “He took us from being a talented team to being a championship team. He got (Slava) Fetisov and (Igor) Larionov to come here and he put The Russian Five (Sergei Fedorov, Larionov, Slava Kozlov, Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov) together. He’s the one who transformed Steve Yzerman from a great offensive player to a great two-way player.”
Holland said while Bowman had reduced his role with the Red Wings after leaving as coach after the Stanley Cup win in 2002, his voice was still very prominent in personnel decisions, an area where the Red Wings have been at the top of the league in recent years. Bowman would often accompany the team on road trips, would watch training camp, be at the draft and all the scouting meetings and advise Holland on unrestricted free agents every July 1.
“Even when we made a good decision, one we felt really good about, it was nice to have that experienced voice say, ‘Yeah, I like that move,’ ” Holland said.
“I think his experience is the thing we’re going to miss the most. I’d like to think that Scotty was happy here in his role as a consultant. I know I liked having him here – we did a lot of winning and we had a lot of fun. When he stepped down as coach, he was a lot more relaxed and he was just a joy to be around.”
Bowman joins a team on the rise in Chicago and stands a chance to win a Stanley Cup at the management level with his fourth different NHL team. That would put him on par with Hall of Famer Tom Gorman, who was GM of Stanley Cup winners with the Ottawa Senators, Chicago Black Hawks, Montreal Maroons and Montreal Canadiens.
Holland said he spoke with Bowman earlier this week and believes Bowman wants to be closer to his son Stan, the Blackhawks assistant GM who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma about 18 months ago.
“I think the opportunity to work with his son was something he couldn’t pass up,” Holland said.