Bow­man: Win­ning back-to-back Stan­ley Cups ‘tougher to do now’

Salary cap has led to par­ity

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY JONAS SIEGEL

Scotty Bow­man won back-to­back Stan­ley Cups more than once in an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer be­hind the bench, but the 83-yearold won­ders now how fea­si­ble it is in to­day’s NHL.

“Well it’s not go­ing to hap­pen a lot,” Bow­man, a nine-time Cup win­ner, told the Cana­dian Press in a re­cent in­ter­view. “It’s tougher to do now – no ques­tion about that.”

Not one team has gone backto-back in the salary cap era, with Sid­ney Crosby’s Pitts­burgh Pen­guins now look­ing to be­come the first.

Bow­man guided the last re­peat win­ner in Detroit with the Red Wings win­ning by sweeps in 1997 and 1998. He also helped the Mario Lemieux-led Pen­guins com­plete a backto-back set of cham­pi­onships when he took over for Bob John­son – who passed away from can­cer – for the 1991-92 sea­son and be­fore that, drove the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens to four straight crowns in the late ‘70s.

Bow­man be­lieves win­ning two in a row to­day is in­her­ently more dif­fi­cult be­cause of the salary cap and re­sult­ing par­ity of the league.

“Dif­fer­ent era, dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances evolve around teams and the struc­tures now with the salary cap be­ing prob­a­bly the ma­jor is­sue,” said Mark Messier, the Hall of Fame cen­tre who won back-to-back Cups two times with the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers.

Briefly a member of the New York Rangers front of­fice, Messier thought that con­struct­ing a team good enough to win even once was tough, but keep­ing that group to­gether un­der the con­di­tions of the cap, that was al­most im­pos­si­ble.

Re­cent ex­am­ple

The Chicago Black­hawks are a re­cent ex­am­ple of that with their ros­ter trimmed of sup­port­ing tal­ent af­ter Cup wins in 2010, 2013, and 2015.

Pitts­burgh man­aged to keep the guts of last year’s Cup ros­ter in­tact this year – though they lost No. 1 de­fence­man Kris Le­tang to a sea­son-end­ing in­jury – but Bow­man noted their strug­gles in build­ing ca­pa­ble units af­ter vic­tory in 2009.

“When you pay three or four guys a lot of money it’s hard to keep your team,” said Bow­man, now a se­nior ad­viser to the Black­hawks where his son, Stan, works as gen­eral man­ager.

What the Pen­guins have done, the elder Bow­man ob­served, was de­velop qual­ity tal­ent in­ter­nally around Crosby, Le­tang and Ev­geni Malkin, nam­ing Matt Mur­ray as one shin­ing ex­am­ple.

A first-time Cup win­ner in 2009 and then again last year, Crosby said his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the chal­lenge had grown.

“I think I had that ap­pre­ci­a­tion com­ing in, but I think just go­ing through it and un­der­stand­ing how tough it is to win, you need some bounces, you need some luck along the way,” Crosby said.

Had there been a cap in the late 90s, Bow­man’s Red Wings would have had trou­ble keep­ing their star-laden group to­gether for mul­ti­ple sea­sons. The ‘98 Wings had seven fu­ture Hall of Famers, in­clud­ing Steve Yz­er­man, Bren­dan Shana­han, Igor Lar­i­onov and Sergei Federov.

Detroit might have been even bet­ter too with Vladimir Kon­stanti­nov, a Nor­ris tro­phy fi­nal­ist whose ca­reer trag­i­cally came to an end when he was se­ri­ously in­jured in a car crash less than a week af­ter the Wings won the Cup in ‘97.

The Preda­tors be­came the 16th dif­fer­ent team to reach the fi­nal since the 2005-06 lock­out and Messier thought par­ity – a di­rect re­sult of the salary cap – was pri­mary in why it was hard for teams to re­peat.

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At left, in a June 7, 1997, file photo, Detroit Red Wings cap­tain Steve Yz­er­man skates off with the Stan­ley Cup af­ter the Red Wings swept the Philadelphia Fly­ers in four games, in Detroit. At right, in a June 16, 1998, file photo, Detroit Red Wings cen­ter Brent Gilchrist hoists the Stan­ley Cup as his team won their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive NHL cham­pi­onship against the Washington Cap­i­tals, in Washington. The Pitts­burgh Pen­guins and Nashville Preda­tors opened the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal with Game 1 on Mon­day night. The Pen­guins are look­ing to be­come the first team since Detroit in 1998 to win back-to-back cham­pi­onships.

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