Scotty Bowman holds the record for NHL all-time coaching wins, and on that basis alone many people judge him to be the greatest NHL coach of all time. Impressive as that stat is, Bowman has many other records and achievements to his credit, making his case very strong indeed for being the best NHL coach ever.
Scotty Bowman — Teams Coached
Let’s survey Scotty Bowman’s coaching record team by team. It gives you a pretty good picture of his coaching prowess.
- Louis Blues. Bowman became head coach at age 34, in the 1967-68 season. In his four years there, he made it to the Stanley Cup Final three times — the team’s first three seasons in existence. How many professional expansion teams got off to a start like that?
- Montreal Canadiens. Bowman coached Montreal for eight seasons, from 1971-72 through 1978-79. He did pretty well — five Stanley Cup championships, eight Stanley Cup Playoff appearances. Five championships in eight years.
- Buffalo Sabres. Bowman coached the Sabres from 1979-80 to 1986-87, and left there with the most regular-season wins in team history. With the Sabres, he reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs five out of six full seasons coached.
- Pittsburgh Penguins. Bowman spent only two seasons with Pittsburgh but managed to win the Stanley Cup in his first season (1991-92). The following season, the Pens finished with 119 points, the first time over 100 in franchise history. They also set an NHL record that season with 17 straight wins.
- Detroit Red Wings. Bowman coached the Red Wings for nine seasons, from 1993-94 through 2001-02. He won three Stanley Cups, appeared in nine Stanley Cup Playoffs, and lost in the Stanley Cup Final twice. His first Stanley Cup, in 1996-97, was the first championship for Detroit in 42 years.
Scotty Bowman — More Coaching Highlights
Does that look at Scotty Bowman teams coached make the case for him as best NHL coach ever? Here are a few more facts to consider.
- He holds the record for NHL all-time coaching wins, regular season, with 1,244. Currently, Joel Quenneville is in second place with 890.
- He holds the record for NHL all-time coaching wins, playoffs, with 223. Al Arbour holds second position with 123 wins — a bit more than half of Bowman’s total.
- Bowman never had a losing season as a head coach — and he coached for 30 seasons.
- Speaking of 30 seasons as an NHL head coach, that’s a record, too. Dick Irvin holds the second spot with 27 seasons.
- Regular-season games coached? Bowman tops the list again, at 2,141. Quenneville currently holds second, with 1,636 games.
- Bowman’s .657 winning percentage is tops in the NHL for any coach with more than two seasons at the helm.
- Bowman is the only NHL coach to lead three different teams to Stanley Cup wins.
- In 1976-77, he lost only eight games in Montreal — a league record. The Canadiens recorded 132 points that season, also a league record. While we’re on the subject … that same season, the Canadiens had a plus-216 goal differential, also a league record.
- In 1995-96, he won 62 games in Detroit — a league record.
Born in 1933 in Verdun, Quebec, William Scott Bowman continued to be active in the NHL after retiring from head-coaching duties. His winning ways continued: As Senior Advisor to Hockey Operations for the Chicago Blackhawks, he was instrumental in bringing that team back to life with Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Bowman not only won everywhere he went, he won big. Whether or not you consider him the greatest NHL coach of all time, there’s no denying he set several amazing records, with many of the biggest ones still on the books — most wins, most consecutive wins in a season, most games coached, highest points total for a season. And, given the big lead he has in wins and games coached, his records may stand for quite a few years to come.
(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)