The Malik Report
Is a 48-game season a ‘sprint?’ Yes, but it’s also an attention-to-detail-oriented demolition derby!
by George Malik on 01/14/13 at 09:54 PM ET
Scotty Bowman now works as a senior advisor for the Chicago Blackhawks, but the man who won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings pushed the team to its first Stanley Cup Final appearance under his tenure during the abbreviated 1994-1995 season.
So Scotty definitely knew what he was talking about when the New York Times' Jeff Z. Klein and Stu Hackel asked Bowman to discuss the nature of the 48-game NHL season to come, and Scotty seems to agree with his former colleagues in Detroit--Wings GM Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock--in suggesting that teams are not facing a "sprint" to the playoffs, but, instead, a full-contact demolition derby of 48 games over the course of all of 99 nights.
Injuries, call-ups, trades, fatigue and short shifts, oh my? Damn straight:
“The teams that have guys playing on their farm teams who can come up and play on the fourth line at the N.H.L. level will have an advantage,” Bowman said. His club was spared injury problems in ’95, and he says he expects teams to use four offensive lines as often as possible rather than three, to keep the forwards fresh.
In 1995, Bowman made sure his Red Wings took quicker shifts by drilling them on one of the game’s subtleties, changing on the fly.
“Lots of teams change at the wrong time,” he said. “Especially early in a short season, you want your team well-disciplined on how to change, where to put the puck and not taking long shifts.”
Bowman, now an adviser with the Chicago Blackhawks, said his team worked on line changes during scrimmages.
“People laughed at it, but I had a football horn and a stopwatch,” he said. “I didn’t want them to change when I blew the horn, but if I’d blow the horn once, I’m telling the white team they should be thinking about getting a change. I figured after they had a good 30 to 40 seconds, they’ve got to know that the next opportunity you have to put the puck in the right place so we can get at least two or three guys off.”
Klein and Hackel also snag some wisdom from St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and Carolina Hurricanes director of hockey operations Ron Francis, who both believe that attention to detail will separate the playoff-bound from those packing their golf bags at the end of April:
Francis, now the director of hockey operations for the Carolina Hurricanes, played center for Pittsburgh in ’95 and led the league in assists. He said the shortened schedule heightened the importance of every game.
“The intensity of every game was really high,” he said. “It made for some really good hockey, from the start right to the end of the season.”
Scoring dropped by a half-goal a game during the ’95 season, and Francis saw that as a product of the shortened schedule.
“The more intense the game gets, the more attention everybody pays to detail at both ends of the rink,” said Francis, who won the Selke Trophy that season as the N.H.L.’s best defensive forward. “The offense is a little bit harder to come by.”
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.