An exclusive with Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman

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During the 2008 offseason, I had an exclusive in the office of current Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman, who was Asst. GM, Hockey Operations at the time. Stan was born in Montreal where his father Scotty Bowman, the all-time winningest head coach in NHL history, was coaching at the time. Here are some of the highlights of that conversation; including many statements that have indeed come to fruition today.

By Paul M. Banks

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Midwest Well Represented in All-time Coaches Poll

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By Paul M. Banks

If there’s one thing the Midwest can produce (in addition to soybeans and corn) it’s coaches. When the new Sporting News Magazine hits newsstands this week, it’ll include a 14 page feature containing the 50 greatest coaches of all time, and the Midwestern region of the United States will be heavily represented.

Penn State’s Joe Paterno checked in at No. 13, the highest-ranked current college football coach on the list. Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was No. 27, Michigan’s Bo Schembechler was No. 36 and Chicago’s Amos Alonzo Stagg (the namesake of my high school in Palos Hills, IL) was No. 40. The Big Ten’s four picks were the most of any college conference. And it doesn’t include former Indiana men’s basketball coach and current evil douchebag Bobby Knight, ranked No. 16.

Former Purdue student-athlete and UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden was the runaway #1, picking up 57 first-place votes from SN’s panel, which includes seven World Series-winning managers, four Super Bowl champion coaches and the winningest coaches in the NBA, NHL and college basketball.

Wooden, who won a record 10 Division I men’s basketball championships in 12 years, got the biggest challenge from Green Bay Packers great Vince Lombardi. Rounding out the top 20: 3. Bear Bryant 4. Phil Jackson 5. Don Shula 6. Red Auerbach (NBA), 7. Scotty Bowman (NHL), 8. Dean Smith (college basketball), 9. Casey Stengel (MLB), 10. Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne, 11. Pat Summitt (women’s college basketball), 12. Ohio’s favorite son Paul Brown (NFL), 13. Joe Pa 14. Chicago and the University of Illinois’ “Papa Bear” George Halas 15. Chuck Noll 16. Bob Knight (college basketball), 17. Joe Gibbs (NFL), 18. Tom Landry (NFL), 19. Mike “Coach K.” Krzyzewski and 20. the grey hooded sweatshirt genius of Bill Belichick.

The current proprietor of the Los Angeles Lake Show, Phil Jackson, has obvious Midwest connections, as he built his name, reputation and first dynasty right here in Chicago.

Chicago Blackhawks Senior Advisor, Hockey Operations Scotty Bowman checked in at #7. Bowman is the highest ranked National Hockey League coach on the list, as selected by a panel of 118 Hall of Famers, championships coaches and other experts.

“I feel honored and privileged to be considered in such elite company,” Bowman said. “It is a reflection on the many great Hall of Fame players that I had the good fortune to coach.”

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Bowman, who joined the Blackhawks Hockey Operations Department on July 31, 2008, has been a member of 11 Stanley Cup winning teams since 1973, which includes an NHL record nine as a head coach. The Montreal native is also the NHL’s all-time leader with 1,224 regular-season wins and 223 postseason victories. Prior to joining the Blackhawks, Bowman has held a position in professional hockey since 1967.

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1991, Bowman is the only man in the history of the sport to lead three different teams to the Stanley Cup and has reached the league Finals 13 times as a bench boss. As a head coach, he has captured the Cup with the Montreal Canadiens (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979), Pittsburgh Penguins (1992) and Red Wings (1997, 1998 and 2002). He served as the director of player development on Pittsburgh’s 1991 Stanley Cup winning club and most recently celebrated his 11th league title with the Red Wings in 2008.

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The entire list is as follows:

1. John Wooden, college basketball

2. Vince Lombardi, NFL
3. Bear Bryant, college football
4. Phil Jackson, NBA
5. Don Shula, NFL
6. Red Auerbach, NBA
7. Scotty Bowman, NHL
8. Dean Smith, college basketball
9. Casey Stengel, MLB
10. Knute Rockne, college football

11. Pat Summitt, women’s college basketball
12. Paul Brown, NFL
13. Joe Paterno, college football
14. George Halas, NFL
15. Chuck Noll, NFL
16. Bob Knight, college basketball
17. Joe Gibbs, NFL
18. Tom Landry, NFL
19. Mike Krzyzewski, college basketball
20. Bill Belichick, NFLbelichickdrevil

21. Adolph Rupp, college basketball
22. Joe McCarthy, MLB
23. Eddie Robinson, college football
24. Bobby Bowden, college football
25. John McGraw, MLB
26. Bill Walsh, NFL
27. Woody Hayes, college football
28. Connie Mack, MLB
29. Bud Wilkinson, college football
30. Pat Riley, NBA

31. Pete Newell, college basketball
32. Joe Torre, MLB
33. Bill Parcells, NFL
34. Tom Osborne, college football
35. Walter Alston, MLB
36. Bo Schembechler, college football
37. Toe Blake, NHL
38. Sparky Anderson, MLB
39. Al Arbour, NHL
40. Amos Alonzo Stagg, college football

41. Tony La Russa, MLB
42. Geno Auriemma, women’s college basketball
43. Dick Irvin, NHL
44. Ara Parseghian, college football
45. Chuck Daly, NBA
46. Bobby Cox, MLB
47. Hank Iba, college basketball
48. Tommy Lasorda, MLB
49. Gregg Popovich, NBA
50. Herb Brooks, NHL

Conspiracy Runs Deep as Blackhawks Fire GM

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By: David Kay

Dale Tallon blamed the United States mail system.  Since the Blackhawks can’t fire the post office, they instead have reportedly given Tallon the boot as general manager.

In a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune, Tallon was quoted as saying he “can take the heat” for the mistake he made by not notifying the Hawks’ restricted free agents that the team would be offering them qualifying offers before the league deadline.  Instead, eight players including key contributors like defenseman Cam Barker and right winger Kris Versteeg did not receive the offers, and the Hawks had to rush in re-signing them before they were possibly ruled unrestricted free agents, meaning other teams would have been able to sign them.

chicago-blackhawksThat boneheaded goof forced Chicago to re-sign Barker and Versteeg to three year, $9.25 million deals, paying them market value rather than saving some cap space and bringing them back for the minimal restricted free agent amount.  The organization suffered major embarrassment due to this error and now Tallon is truly feeling the heat.

Barker and Versteeg’s contracts combined with the recent, massive 12-year, $62.8 million deal the Blackhawks gave Marian Hossa earlier this off-season, now limits what Chicago can do with their young talent like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith when it’s time to re-sign them to long-term deals.  It also reduces any flexibility the Hawks have in making a trade deadline-type acquisition during the season.

While the Blackhawks have struck gold in recent years through the draft, Tallon has been criticized for some costly mistakes involving free agency.  He grossly overpaid for defenseman Brian Campbell last off-season and also signed goalie Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.5 million deal when Chicago already had Nikolai Khabibulin on the books for around seven-million dollars last season.  (Although the Huet signing doesn’t look terrible now that Khabi signed with Edmonton earlier this month.)

But let the conspiracy theory begin… Was Tallon really fired because of these blunders or does the reason run deeper?

bowman_1Tallon was a Bill Wirtz guy, hired as GM in 2005 after previously serving as the team’s assistant GM and director of player personnel.  It is being reported that current assistant general manager Stan Bowman, the son of legendary NHL head coach Scotty Bowman, will replace Tallon.  With that being said, it is not crazy to think that this move was made coming off the heels of Tallon’s mess-up as a way to give more control to Bowman, a John McDonough/Rocky Wirtz guy, without admitting that they just wanted to hand the keys over to their guy, Bowman.

Am I just stirring the pot?  Maybe, but don’t forget the Hawks fired head coach Dennis Savard just four games into the 2008-2009 season, the day after the team just picked up a win.  Plus, Bill Wirtz’s body was barely cold when his son decided to put all Hawks’ home games on TV in Chicago, something his father stubbornly refused to do when he was in charge of the team.

I am sure the younger Wirtz and McDonough will site Tallon’s free agency gaffes with the latest restricted free agents fiasco as the straw that broke Tallon’s back.  Can you really believe that when the team Tallon put together just ended a revived season of Chicago hockey in the Western Conference Finals?  With the sticky salary cap situation the Blackhawks will face in the up-coming seasons, maybe you can… or maybe you’re convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone in assassinating JFK.  Conspiracists, spin your web…

The Quenneville Effect

By Paul M. Banks

When Denis Savard was fired from his position as Head Coach of the Chicago Blackhawks coach just four games into this season, many people criticized the decision. Most were ubercritical about the timing. Savard was a sentimental fan favorite despite a 1-2-1 record on the young season. Today however, the decision to insert Joel Quenneville in place of “Savvy” looks quite astute.

With Coach Q. in place the team has seen its on-ice record (28-12-7 since the Indian committed to Quenneville) improve as much as the team’s Q Rating.

In December Quenneville, the St. Louis Blues all-time leader in coaching wins, guided the Hawks to a franchise record nine game winning streak. After the rough patch that followed, his been there before leadership (which Savvy lacked) got the team winning again, with a 4-2 record (including a big win at San Jose, the Western Conference’s points leader) on a long and tough road trip.

“I think the whole process is going to be good for us, during that stretch pucks were going in for us left and right, but lately they’re all low scoring affairs and we have to be ready to play that game because that’s what it’s going to be from here on in,” Quenneville said. He’s also instilled a specific strategy and philosophy for stopping the opposition’s offensive attack in his team a philosophy.

“Teams win by checking, playing hard defensively and try and prevent. Everybody’s gonna play that way, nobody’s going to try and get into a track meet and exchange chances and think you can win that way in our league. Whether you got a high powered offense or not, the offense comes from how well you check, play positionally and move together,” he stated.

Savvy, the local legend, was a good fit during his tenure because he helped bring the fans back. Quenneville is perfect for right now, when the Hawks seek their first postseason since 2002. His 11 playoff appearances validate that. But he probably isn’t the coach to bring this team another Stanley Cup title. The legendary Scotty Bowman, father of Hawks asst. GM Stan Bowman, came aboard as a Senior Advisor last off-season. Bowman, owner of a record nine Stanley Cups, could be the man guiding the Hawks towards the big prize down the line. Scotty says he has no interest in being bench boss again, but things might change if the Hawks find themselves in the playoffs every year; and with their almost 50 year cup drought intact.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank