By: Will Burchfield
It wasn’t long ago that the Red Wings were the New England Patriots of the NHL. Coach Jeff Blashill made that connection on Monday after watching the Pats win the Super Bowl on Sunday night for the fifth time in the past 16 years.
“It’s incredibly impressive, similar to what was done here for a number of years through the 90’s and then into the 2000’s,” Blashill said.
The Patriots’ run of dominance began in 2001, a year after hiring coach Bill Belichick. Since then, they’ve won five Super Bowls, played in two more, and averaged over 12 victories per year.
“When you win at that high a level in a league set up for parity and you win that consistently, it’s extremely impressive,” said Blashill.
“Obviously, there’s been two big keys to that whole thing. One’s been the coach and one’s been the quarterback. Those are two real important positions.”
Scotty Bowman is the natural comparison to Belichick in Detroit. Hired by the Red Wings as head coach in 1993, Bowman led the team to three Stanley Cups in a span of six years, beginning in the 1996-97 season.
Bowman’s first championship snapped a 38-year drought for the Wings. Belichick’s first championship was the Patriots’ first. In both cases, the coaches helped a growing team get over the hump.
The Patriots had fallen short in the playoffs in three of the four years prior to Belichick’s arrival, including a Super Bowl defeat in 1996. The Red Wings had been knocked out of the playoffs in three straight years prior to Bowman’s arrival and then lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in his second year at the helm.
Soon enough, of course, both coaches reached their sport’s respective summit. They quickly returned, too, with Belichick leading the Pats to back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004, and Bowman leading the Wings to consecutive titles in 1997 and 1998.
Mike Babcock did his best to continue Detroit’s winning ways when he took over as head coach in 2005. During Babcock’s ten seasons at the helm, the Wings played in two Cup Finals, winning in 2008, and averaged well over 100 points per year. But the dynasty was dying by the time he departed in 2015.
That Belichick and Brady have kept theirs alive is all the more impressive by comparison.