Where is he? Where is that meticulous, controlling, gnomelike
genius who has guided the Red Wings to two straight Stanley
Cups? Where is Scotty Bowman?
For the first time in six seasons the Red Wings don't have
Bowman patrolling Joe Louis Arena. Bowman, 65, needed surgery to
clear a blocked artery in July, then had his chronically ailing
left knee replaced in August. Next week, when the Wings raise
another championship banner, he will not be behind the bench.
"It's a real void," says Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
"Scotty gets involved in everything. When he's here, everyone
knows he's here. Now that he's not, we miss him."
That hollow feeling is something the Wings had better get used
to. They're optimistic that Bowman, who has yet to announce when,
or if, he'll return, will be back by midseason. They shouldn't
count on it. Our bet is that we've seen the last of hockey's
greatest coach, which is why Detroit will fail to defend the Cup.
For now, Barry Smith and Dave Lewis are serving as co-coaches,
and because they're both savvy and helped mold the team
throughout Bowman's regime, the strange arrangement shouldn't
hurt the team too much. No slight to either coach, but this
veteran club would have a good regular season under Wayne
Fontes. Picture the pregame strategy session.
Smith: "You know, Dave, I think we should give Sergei Fedorov and
Steve Yzerman a lot of ice time tonight."
Lewis: "Great thinking, Barry. Let's do it!"
Detroit's entire cast of fabulous forwards is back, and the
defense is also in fine shape. "We're just trying to give the
players the type of preparation they'd have if Scotty were
here," says Smith. "We'd like to provide his intensity and his
attention to detail, but you can't emulate the man."
No, and without him the Wings won't emulate their recent
COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA No Scotty? No third Cup for Yzerman (19) and Co. [Steve Yzerman and defender in game]
The 1997-98 Red Wings were the first team in three seasons to
neither win nor lose in overtime. Their record in extra-session
games was 0-0-15.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
--With the return of ailing coach Scotty Bowman doubtful,
assistants Barry Smith and Dave Lewis must assert their
authority early and gain the players' respect.
--The Wings' scrappy forwards must maintain their hard edge if
Detroit is to contend for a third straight Cup.