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Draft, develop, retain… sound familiar?

Chevy's blueprint looks a lot like the Blackhawks'

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CHICAGO -- Scotty Bowman might be a little biased -- seeing as his son Stan is the GM -- but when he reflects on the Chicago Blackhawks it's still an opinion coming from the greatest hockey mind on the planet. To borrow from the old investment commercial, when Scotty Bowman talks, hockey people listen.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/12/2014 (2959 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CHICAGO — Scotty Bowman might be a little biased — seeing as his son Stan is the GM — but when he reflects on the Chicago Blackhawks it’s still an opinion coming from the greatest hockey mind on the planet. To borrow from the old investment commercial, when Scotty Bowman talks, hockey people listen.

“There’s no denying the Hawks got (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane in back-to-back years in the draft, and you have to find a way to be pretty poor to draft that high. There’s a difference between the first two or three guys and the rest of the draft most years,” said Bowman, sitting in a cap in the United Center stands watching the Winnipeg Jets practise while chatting about today’s game and players, coaches and media from the old days, too.

“What the Hawks have done after drafting well, and you have to have a good scouting department today, is they’ve put a lot of money into development. Every player is different and comes along at a different pace. The Hawks have managed to keep their best players while developing young players and bringing them along when they’re ready.

Charles Rex Arbogast / The Assocated Press Files The Blackhawks may have won the draft lottery -- twice in a row -- snagging Jonathan Toews (right) and Patrick Kane, but the team's success, particularly in the salary-cap era, goes much deeper than two first-round picks.

“You can make trades or sign free agents, but you often overpay. It’s pretty basic, when a guy hits the market there are a lot of teams bidding and it raises the price. The player is usually a guy his previous team didn’t want to keep or wasn’t a top priority to keep. With the cap today, getting your own players and keeping them then adding a few parts when you need them seems to be the best way to operate.”

Bowman has collected 13 Stanley Cups as a coach and executive winning in Montreal, Pittsburgh, Detroit and now two more as senior adviser of hockey operations with the Blackhawks.

Dynasties have long been the business of the Bowmans and while today’s salary-cap era makes it much harder to retain a core of elite players, Stan Bowman has done his best to retain his finest assets while winning two Cups over three years.

Toews, Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and goalie Corey Crawford are all on the long-term deals. Bowman is forced to flirt with the cap each season and sometimes has to move excellent players for picks and prospects. Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Michael Frolik are all examples of Bowman shipping out useful players due to the cap.

Bowman has been clever and innovative in his managing of the cap, keeping his elite players happy and continually bringing in complementary pieces.

Head coach Joel Quenneville understands he has a thoroughbred in the saddle and has become a master at pulling the levers. He works to keep his group fresh, to inspire internal competition while making sure to manage egos and have the group come first.

“We have confidence in our management staff with Stan and Norm (Maciver) and our scouts identifying players,” said Hawks defenceman Brent Seabrook. “I’m sure the coaching staff has some input on certain guys and things like that so we have confidence as players that they’re going to do their job and make this team as successful as it can be. And then it’s our turn on the ice to be a good team so I think everybody is pulling on the same rope and that’s all part of it.”

Jets captain Andrew Ladd won one of his two Cups with the Hawks and says the Jets are a work in progress and have the Chicago model to aspire toward.

“Yeah, it’d be a really good thing for us to look like Chicago going forward. I think you’re always trying to figure out what the top teams in the league do,” said Ladd. “Whether it’s the drafting part of it or development or the patience they have with players,” Ladd said.

“For us in this room, I think they obviously have a lot of skill, the pace that they play at, the details of their game. I think that’s where we want to get to.”

Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg won in 2010 with the Blackhawks and then chased a payday. Last season he was traded back to Chicago and is having a resurgence following some injuries with nine goals and 16 assists this season.

‘Yeah, it’d be a really good thing for us to look like Chicago going forward. I think you’re always trying to figure out what the top teams in the league do’

— Jets captain Andrew Ladd

Versteeg says what sets the Hawks apart is a dedication to the team and not individual highlights.

“It’s definitely a team that counts on team success before personal and that’s, I think, the biggest part of the team success here,” said Versteeg. “Everyone understands that everyone wants to be the best player on any given night but they also take into account that they got to be there for the team before their own personal gains.

“No, I mean you look at the days of the Red Wings and you know (Nik) Lidstrom, I’m sure he could have financially rung the bell a lot of other places just like Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp could have. These guys make a lot of money, but I’m sure had they gone somewhere else they could have done even better. So you see the guys have the pride to stay here.

“Obviously they’re well-compensated but it’s about being a Blackhawk and being somewhere where they’re comfortable and also love winning. To win a Stanley Cup, that’s really the only goal now and you see in the guys’ faces. They’ve made a lot of money and they’ve done a lot in their careers. Every day it’s about trying to win that Stanley Cup.”

Both Versteeg and Seabrook talked about accountability within the team and how it’s not about yelling at one another but having the comfort to look in each other’s eyes and express what is best for the team at any given time.

Ladd says the Jets are striving to have that same comfort and to push one another to be consistent in their effort and execution.

“I think it comes with that the relationship of being close. You know I turn and tell Buff, or whoever, he’s being an idiot or not doing the right things and he realizes that I’m not personally out to try to get him that it’s just to try to get better and win hockey games,” said Ladd.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

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