Bowman to Toronto?

Every once in awhile a series of events gives us a great opportunity to learn something.

Again.

This from Canada’s national fishwrap (Globe & Mail): Scotty Bowman has once again been offered the position of president of the Toronto Maple Leafs and this time is leaning toward accepting it, according to a source.
The source said Bowman was offered the job by the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and was given a week to make his decision. An answer is expected by Thursday or Friday and, the source said, Bowman may finally let MLSE catch him after a pursuit that began in the late spring when he spurned the company’s initial offer.
Bowman could not be immediately reached for comment. Neither could MLSE president Richard Peddie or Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson, whose tenure with the team could end with Bowman’s arrival….A second source said if Bowman takes the job with the Leafs, there will be a complete housecleaning. This would include Ferguson, head coach Paul Maurice and others in the hockey department, according to the source. Ferguson has one year left on his contract at $850,000 (all figures U.S.), while Maurice has three years left at $750,000.

First I want to say this probably isn’t true. I honestly think people in Toronto believe in their hearts there is a saviour who is just around the corner, a modern Punch Imlach, a modern Hap Day. However, Bowman is 74 years old in September and according to various media reports is enjoying himself as a consultant to Detroit’s Red Wings and has various golf interests as well. Seems like he’s got a good thing going on.

Second it’s probably not reaching to say that the Leafs are not close to contention for the Stanley and won’t be for some time. Let’s look at their 5 biggest contracts (cap hit below):

  1. Bryan McCabe 5.75M for 4 more years
  2. Mats Sundin, 5.5M for 1 year
  3. Pavel Kubina, 5M for 3 years
  4. Jason Blake, 4M for 5 years
  5. Tomas Kaberle, 4.25M for 4 years

That’s close to 25M (or 50%) of the cap room for 07-08 tied into 5 players. The only contract that looks like a bargain is Kaberle’s, although Blake should cover that number next season (did you know he turns 34 next month? I didn’t know that). McCabe doesn’t really fit the Bowman defense code book (smart positional defender who can move the puck effectively and doesn’t take dumb penalties) and God love Mats Sundin he isn’t worth 5.5M (although he went 6-28-34 on the PP last season) anymore. Kubina? Nice player, too much money and they can’t get him on the PP because of McCabe and Kaberle. So there’s lots of waste here and lots of money on the books that won’t come off until Bowman is close to 80.

The Leafs do have some players who imo would benefit from Bowman coaching the team (at a guess, I think Staffan Kronwall, Matt Stajan and Alexander Steen would take big steps forward under Bowman behind the bench), but there’s not much evidence to suggest Bowman can build a team (he didn’t in Buffalo, in fact he tore it down in favor of draft picks and then he grew impatient when the picks took time to arrive. There’s a lesson for Oiler fans) from the front office.

When historians (I hope hockey eventually has them, someone needs to write this stuff down like they do in baseball) look back on Bowman, it’ll all be coaching. Things like he wasn’t a systems coach, he got his edge by being unpredictable, things like identifying who was going well a particular night and adjusting his lines accordingly, things like scouting the opponent’s PP and PK to death, those are all things “within the game.”

As a GM, Scotty Bowman was impatient and not successful. To quote the book Scotty Bowman: A Life in Hockey (Douglas Hunter, it’s a wonderful read): The player acquisition system under which Scotty Bowman attempted an aggressive rebuilding of the Buffalo Sabres was in many respects different from the one in which Sam Pollock proved to be so skilled. Players were getting younger, and they were coming from places scarcely heard of before the 1980s. Bowman’s drafting efforts were at the forefront of emerging talent sources (USA and Europe), but as a trailblazer his results were uneven. (page 222).

Bowman as a coach I could understand if he were even 10 years younger. I’d personally love to read the Maple Leaf version of this item about Shawn Burr from hockeydraftcentral.com: Burr demanded to be traded by Detroit early in 1993-94 season because new head coach Scotty Bowman was not giving him much playing time and was benching him for several games. Despite his status as a longtime regular with the team, Burr was scratched from Detroit’s lineup prior to an Oct. 8, 1993, game at Anaheim — setting off his trade demand. He said he did not care for Bowman’s tendency to play head games with otherwise reliable veteran players. He also said Bowman had told all players on the third and fourth lines that the Wings could win without them if necessary.

Toronto hiring Bowman to make the decisions makes little or no sense. That’s not what he was/is about. The talent evaluator was Sam Pollock, who is still alive but 82 years old.

Still, he’s a better bet than Bowman if you’re looking for a procurement guy.

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3 Responses to "Bowman to Toronto?"

  1. Kyle says:

    If he’s not coaching for Detroit, he’s not coaching for anyone. He turned down Wayne and co multiple times.

    Great read again LT.

  2. Colby Cosh says:

    I may go to Oilogosphere hell for saying it but there can’t be more than 10 or so guys in the league who can pick up a team and carry it like Sundin. I don’t think he’s overpriced at all.

  3. PunjabiOil says:

    I have to disagree on Sundin. He’s a guy overperforming his contract at those terms.

    McCabe’s contract is a bit steep after a contract year, and that’s exactly why I worry about Souray.

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