Thursday, December 29, 2016

Bylsma's 300th win comes in front of some hockey heavyweights

Published by, 12-28-2016

Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma finally got his 300th win as his team came out of Joe Louis Arena with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Evander Kane continued his torrid pace as of late by scoring Buffalo's first and last goals while Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel also scored for the Sabres.

It was five games in the making after his team went 0-2-2 while he sat on the precipice of that milestone. With the win last night he became the 47th NHL head coach to reach 300 wins. "It's a milestone, I guess," said Bylsma to the gathered media post-game. "You try to win hockey games and 300 is a nice one to have, but it's also just [with]in the pile of games we need to win and we have to keep winning.

"It's nice to get it. I've had a couple of nice wins here in Detroit add this one on as memorable."

One of the "nice wins" Bylsma got at "The Joe" was in Game-7 against the Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was Bylsma's first Cup win and the first one for the franchise with Sidney Crosby et al. Although this one won't be quite as memorable as the Cup-clincher, Bylsma's 300th win last night in front of some hockey heavyweights in attendance for a reunion marking the 20th Anniversary of the Wings 1997 Stanley Cup victory, one that officially hearkened in the rebirth of Hockeytown.

In celebration of the final season at Joe Louis Arena the Red Wings scheduled numerous events throughout the season and last night happened to be when they saluted the team that finally broke a 42 year Stanley Cup drought. Amongst those in attendance was legendary Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman who won his seventh Stanley Cup overall in his third year with the Red Wings. Jimmy Devellano, the architect of Hockeytown hired Bowman in 1993 to get his championship caliber team over the hump.

Devellano was hired as general manager of the Wings in the summer of 1982 and guided the franchise out of the infamous Dead Wings era. His first pick ever as GM (fourth overall in 1983) was another Hall of Famer, Steve Yzerman, who captained that '97 team.

Also on hand were Hall of Fame inductee Niklas Lidstrom, who was drafted by Devellano in the third round in 1989, and another Hall of Famer in Brendan Shanahan who came to Detroit in October, 1996 in a trade at the behest of Bowman.

Today Bowman is still in hockey as a consultant for the Chicago Blackhawks, Yzerman has served as vice president and general manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2010 and Shanahan as president and alternate governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs since April, 2014.

The rise of the Red Wings was a long, arduous journey with many pitfalls along the away but was driven by owners Mike and Marian Ilitch, who bought the team in 1982, and their one desire--to win the Cup at all costs. Detroit's rise ascension to Hockeytown wasn't without some pain, pitfalls and a lot of misses along the way as Devellano promised them a Cup in eight years. It took 15 years.

Through it all the Ilitch family gave Devellano the freedom to do what he felt was best for the franchise and allowed him to make mistakes, of which he had many. The owners ultimately had the final say, but they often deferred to him and no better example of that was when Devellano hired Bowman, his sixth head coach. Mike Ilitch no longer wanted Bryan Murray behind the bench and threw the name Mike Keenan right at his GM. Devellano countered saying that Keenan wasn't the right fit for Detroit and offered up two names--four-time Cup-winner Al Arbour and Bowman. Of the two Bowman was the most receptive and the rest is history.

As Sabres fans it's not hard to get caught up in every shift of every game as we live and die with our team, but patience is a theme that ran through the entire 15 years it took the Wings to end their drought. Prior to the Ilitch family buying the team and hiring Devellano, the Dead Wings era consisted of two playoff appearances in 16 seasons and even afterwards they missed the playoff twice Devellano's first four seasons.

The game last night was a big one for a young, still inconsistent Buffalo Sabres team as they're trying to make that long hard climb up. That they were able to win in regulation and climb ever so slightly up the Atlantic Division standings was a huge pulse That Buffalo was able to strike first for the first time in eight games was a bonus as was having their goal-scorers Kane, Reinhart and Eichel light the lamp. Both teams were coming off of the Christmas break and it was a choppy game from both sides and in the end the best players from both teams were their best players. The Sabres just had one of it's best players in Kane provide his second goal of the game for the winner.

Bylsma finally got to 300 wins but up next is a team they're chasing--the Boston Bruins--with the object being wins No. 301 and 302 for him.

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