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 past.