Winning the Stanley Cup with Defense, Leadership, Experience–and Europeans

The 2008 Stanley Cup final round was just great hockey to watch. With so many players from so many different countries, it really shows there is a growing world wide love for the game.

Both teams were great defensively. Most involved in the sport are quite well aware that, to win a championship at any level, a team has to be outstanding defensively. Pittsburgh was very good defensively-Detroit was outstanding.

Leadership from captains Crosby and Lidstrom on down through both rosters was evident every game. And in the process, as Eric Duhatschek pointed out in his June 5,2008 Globe and Mail article, Lidstrom became the first European captain of a Stanley Cup winning team.

“It’s something I’m very proud of,” said Lidstrom, after he received the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman Wednesday night after the Red Wings closed out the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-2 nail-biter, which them the best-of-seven series in six hard-fought games. Playing against a high-octane Penguins’ attack that obliterated three successive Eastern Conference opponents, the Red Wings won their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years with defence, pure and simple. They surrendered just 10 goals in six games, with Lidstrom leading the way.

“The main thing is, we didn’t get rattled,” said Lidstrom. “Experience has a lot to do with that. That gives the whole team some calmness – that we’re not going to panic.”

In the opening period, the Swedish trio of Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Zetterberg killed 93 seconds of a two-man advantage in the first period, an opportunity that could have changed the tone and tenor of the game.

That clean efficient kill demonstrated the Red Wings’ twin trademarks — skill and poise — both of which are embodied in Lidstrom’s play. He doesn’t have Malkin’s “wow” factor; or Sidney Crosby’s, or even Zetterberg’s. He just gets the job done, in the same calm fashion as the rest of his team.

Experience was an advantage Detroit had in the finals and it is what all those super talented young Pittsburgh players gained for the next time.

Can’t wait until next year.

Honesty and Mentoring: Trademarks of a Successful Coach

Mike Babcock is the very successful head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. An excerpt from a recent newspaper article points to two reasons for his success-honesty and mentoring. In the article, he appears to have little problem accepting part of the blame for his team losing a game in the Stanley Cup finals. No excuses or coach speak here. Just an honest assessment of what happened. Refreshing, don’t you think?

The article also mentions how Babcock also talked with Dave King, former NHL head and assistant coach, and former coach of Canada’s National Team. He is one of the most respected coaches in hockey. Babcock uses King, Scotty Bowman, and several others as mentors.

Following is a portion of Eric Duhatschuk’s May 30/08 article in the Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail.

PITTSBURGH — Mike Babcock woke up yesterday morning after the Detroit Red Wings’ first loss in the Stanley Cup final and did what he usually does the morning after a game: He talked to his wife and he talked to a fellow coach, Dave King.

It wasn’t necessarily in that order.

Babcock does it for reasons that he patiently explains all the time: That lifetime learning is a core belief, and that no matter how long he stays in hockey, he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.

Babcock was blunt about where part of the fault lay for Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins – a loss that cut Detroit’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1. He admitted to overplaying his two best forwards, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, although he added that they didn’t do a good job of keeping their shifts short enough.

Honesty is a ‘must have’ quality to be successful. It might take people awhile to find out you are not honest, but they will eventually figure it out. Players will be the first group to see any lack of honesty. An important rule for coaches- Never try to fool your players. It can’t be done for any significant length of time.

Mentors have the ability to bring the best out in your coaching. We don’t have to learn everything ourselves. Get great mentors and find out what they have learned. Share ideas, ask questions and be sure to listen.