There are two types of coaches in hockey: Those who rely on strategy and those who rely on outside influence. The coaches who rely on strategy are like generals hovering over a map looking for the best attack plan, the enemy’s weakness and their best available units. The coaches that rely on outside influence are like politicians. They spend their time lobbying for things they know they don’t deserve. They make a big deal about nothing in order to gain favor in the future.
Mike Babcock is a general. No matter what the refs do to his team, he stands there totally focused. He’s not worried about an even up call, he’s wondering how his team can overcome the call in the first place. When the Wings fail to kill an extended 5 on 3 where Lidstrom and Pavel are both in the box for phantom hooking calls, Babcock is mad that the 3 guys he trusted to keep the puck out of the net didn’t take away passing lanes down low.
Bowman was both. He could lobby for a call one minute, then come right back with altered lines, a superstar forward at the point and blow out the defending champs 6-0.
Then there’s guy like this:
Marc Crawford is a politician. I hated him when he coached Colorado. No matter what his team did to deserve a penalty, he would go ballistic and chew out the refs. He cried about every goal against. Never mind that his stacked team got burned. It also carried over to his players, of course. Adam Foote’s interview between periods was the first time I saw a hockey player blame the refs for his team’s poor play.
Game 4 of the 1997 conference finals are a prime example. You’ll see Crawford act like a fool and then Foote’s comments between periods. 8 minutes, but it’s worth it.
My gosh, even the slow motion replays to start the period feature Crawford lobbying for an elbowing call. Pathetic.
Other more recent examples:
You know when I knew the Red Wings were going to win the cup in 2008? After game 2. It helped that Pittsburgh hadn’t scored yet, but what really did it for me was when asked how his team would counter Detroit’s defensive system, Michel Therrien cried foul. “They’re very good at obstruction.” So your superstar forwards can’t score on “the worst goalie to ever win the cup” because of subtle obstruction that’s going uncalled? We got this. Favortism alone is not enough to win a series against a superior team as long as that superior team plays hard. Of course, the day Pittsburgh fired him and hired an actual coach was the day I knew we’d have trouble with them. But enough of that memory. Besides…
I wrote this post for one reason and one reason only: To rip on Quenneville. And rip I shall!
I’m the type of guy who wants games to be called fairly, even if that means the Wings lose. You should get what you deserve. Still, when playing Chicago, it’s hilarious to see the Wings get away with something and then have Q freak out and overreact. Think back to game 3 of the 2009 conference finals. Chicago is up 2-0 in the game and Kronwall hits Havlat. Even Edzo says it’s clean (He hesitated, but he said it). What does Queneville do? Jump up on the bench with his arms up, eyes bugging out and screaming for a call. And of course his players feed off of it. They show zero regard for Havlat, just go right into posturing for a call. The worst part of this clip that we’ve all seen a hundred times, is all the skates stepping so close to Havlat.
Still, Chicago won a cup. How is that possible? How could such an inept tool cry his way to victory in June? This is how:
After game 4 against the Flyers, Quenneville was at a loss. Pronger had managed to shut down his top line and Philly had all the momentum going into game 5. I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t he just split up the top line? Make Pronger play 45 minutes if they want him against all those stars.” Chicago did just that and won game 5, so I thought that Quenneville must be kind of sort of not stupid, even though it was a game late. Then I read that this adjustment came as a result of a conversation with Scotty Bowman. Of course. I can’t be sure, but I believe that conversation went something like this:
Scene: Team plane on the way home after game 4. Quenneville is crying in the fetal position as he rocks back and forth in his chair. Scotty Bowman is polishing off a jar of aspirin as he tries to talk sense into Quenneville.
Q: We’re gonna lose. We’re gonna lose. We’re gonna lose…
Bowman: No we’re not. Just relax, okay?
Q: Relax? How can I possibly relax? Pronger is shutting down our top scores! All is lost!
Bowman: What if you changed the lines?
Q: Change a what with the who now?
Bowman: The lines. Put Kane on the second line with Sharp or something. Have Toews play with Hossa. Something like that. Pronger can’t be on the ice for 45 minutes.
Q: Speak English!
Bowman: Spread your team’s talent around.
Q: Why do you speak in riddles, old man!?
Bowman grabs a piece of paper and quickly writes in new lines, then hands them to Quenneville. Quenneville squints as he reads the lines, then looks up at Bowman, then back down at the lines.
Bowman: Trust me.
Q: Okay… But can I shave my mustache?
Bowman: No! We need someplace to hide the two way radio. You’re lost without it.
So that’s it. That’s what you get when you hire a coach who only knows how to work the refs and not actually coach his team. I do get mad at Babcock sometimes for not speaking up more often when the Wings get screwed over, but in the long run, we have a better team than those other guys because he focuses on his team and not the refs. Besides, we as fans manage to rip on the refs just fine without him.