Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks' vice president/general manager, was named for the Stanley Cup. Now, with his team in the Final for the second time in four seasons, he reflects on the decisions and moves that have created what many National Hockey League experts consider the sport's deepest roster. Here's the third and final installment of a visit he recently had with chicagoblackhawks.com.
After the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for a second consecutive time last April, you retained virtually the entire roster. Did you hear criticism about that?
I was aware of it. But in this business, you have to take emotion out of the equation and look at facts. We had a good team last year. We had 101 points. That isn’t luck. We played five overtimes in six games against Phoenix, so it’s not like we got swept or weren’t in the games. When things settled down, we felt that we had most of the right people in place. We needed some guys to step up to another level, and we needed a few changes. As it turned out, our guys showed at training camp in January ready to go, and we started the season with that amazing streak.
There’s a guy who stepped up. He had a fantastic season for us and has played well in the playoffs. People questioned him after he let in a couple of bad goals against Phoenix. But go back a year, when he was so good, basically got us into the playoffs and then almost won that series against Vancouver. That’s not a fluke. He became the No. 1 goaltender and played like it. It’s a process for goalies. He’s been with our organization since we drafted him and he’s progressed nicely. The fluke to me is the two goals he let in against Phoenix that everybody was talking about. That’s a very small sample size against a greater body of work. You can’t react to what people are saying on the outside about you or the moves you make. You have to do what you think is right.
After the second period of Game 6 in Detroit a few weeks ago, you didn’t look like a very happy man. Now, you’re in the Final.
We were down 3-2 in the series and 2-1 in that game. Corey had let in a tough goal, but we were playing well. People forget that he made a great save right after. It could have been 3-1. We won the series. That whole scenario just underscores how incredibly difficult it is to win in the playoffs. There is such a fine line. In Game 7 against Detroit, they had a number of chances to end it. Corey was great. Such a fine line.
What is your stance on sending NHL players to the 2014 Winter Olympics?
Well, I have no say other than I am on the board for the USA. We could send a few players from the Blackhawks to Sochi. Patrick Kane, maybe Nick Leddy. Last time in 2010, we sent six overall. With Canada, Slovakia and Sweden, we might send even more next year. If you go, the break affects the NHL schedule, of course, and there is always the risk of injury. But it’s a great event and players love playing in it for their country.
You spoke to Kane during the series against the Los Angeles Kings, correct?
Yes, after Game 3, which we lost. It was nothing tactical. Patrick was at a point where he was saying he should be playing better and he was watching tapes with his father about what he was doing wrong. I just reminded him that he’s one of the best players in the world, and just because he wasn’t scoring, that didn’t mean he wasn’t playing well. The sheet doesn’t tell everything, but goal-scorers like to score goals. Amazing how world-class athletes can lose confidence from time to time, but it happens.
You’ve heard it before. Unlike 2010, this is “your team.”
I do hear that a lot, but it’s based on a false premise. There are group contributions to all teams. For it to be said this is “my team” implies I make all the decisions when, in fact, we have a great staff finding players and great coaches developing them. I own my decisions, but I am not a one-man band here. Quality people are everywhere.
Including a legend, your father Scotty.
I don’t know that anyone will ever match his success or longevity. He’s almost 80, still incredibly sharp and always watching hockey. Having him around is a great resource. We wouldn’t be where we are without him. There are countless ways he helps us. He has a home in Florida. But in the middle of the winter, he spends a lot of time with our Rockford farm club. He’s a tremendous asset to our entire organization. I’m very lucky.
That word again. You’ve seen a dramatic revival for hockey and the Blackhawks in Chicago.
There were some dark times. It appeared that there wasn’t a lot of hope. But then Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane came aboard. And almost concurrently, Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough took over. We connected with our fans. The team got really good. We won a Cup. You never want to go back to what it was before. This is what it’s all about. Especially the fans. Without them, we have nothing. W
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