Al Arbour's Words of Wisdom for Wings
Al Arbour was surprised someone bothered to call all these years down the road.
"Why can't the Red Wings come back?" he demanded to know. Arbour was the head coach of the 1974-75 New York Islanders, the last NHL team to overcome a 3-0 hole. Those Islanders were a third-year expansion team. These Red Wings, down 3-0 to San Jose with Game 4 here on Thursday, have all-stars and Olympians.
"It's not one game at a time, it's one shift at a time," the 77-year-old Arbour told FanHouse from his Florida home. "With guys like Nicklas Lidstrom and (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg and all that Cup experience, you'd think they'd be somebody who can do what we did."
"I didn't think it was a big deal at the time. I just told the boys, 'If there's anyone who doesn't think we can win four in a row against Pittsburgh, please get the heck off the ice.'"
Before his team's historic comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins 35 years ago, Arbour gathered his team at center ice during a practice before Game 4.
"I didn't think it was a big deal at the time," said Arbour with a laugh. "I just told the boys, 'If there's anyone who doesn't think we can win four in a row against Pittsburgh, please get the heck off the ice."
No one did, and the Islanders reeled off four victories in a row -- including a 1-0 win on the road in Game 7. The Hall of Fame coach needed new material when the Islanders fell behind 3-0 to Philadelphia in the very next round. Arbour's crew won three straight before losing Game 7.
The Red Wings have one tie to the Islanders of Arbour and general manager Bill Torrey. Detroit Senior VP Jim Devellano was the assistant GM of the Islanders and drafted the players that made history in 1975 and went on to win four Stanley Cups from 1980-83. The Red Wings saga is the Islanders' in reverse: championship team now looking to add a milestone to its long list of accomplishments.
"I see Jimmy D. all the time because we're neighbors in Longboat Key," said Arbour, second all-time behind Scotty Bowman in victories and games coached. "I don't have to call him. Jimmy knows the story by heart and the Red Wings have so many great players. They also have a coach (Mike Babcock) who has won a Stanley Cup and just led Canada to a gold medal. The last thing the Red Wings need is advice from anyone outside their family, least of all me."
"Okay, good point," he said. "I would tell them to believe. The nucleus of that team has won three or four Stanley Cups. Four wins in a row in the second round is nothing by comparison."