Despite having just turned 20 years old, Shane Bowers is a very confident and composed young man.
Perhaps precocious is the best word to describe him. It’s one of the personality traits that almost earned Bowers a spot on the Colorado Avalanche’s 23-man roster following his first training camp with the organization. After all, he only made the jump from the NCAA to the pros last March.
Colorado Eagles head coach Greg Cronin was the first to get his hands on Bowers when he made the plunge into the pros last spring. Cronin was quick to admit Bowers had a bit of a shaky start.
“It’s always interesting, I tell their agents and the coaches of these players that come out of college and even juniors, they think it’s real easy,” Cronin said. “You know, [they think] the American League isn’t a hard league and then they come in during that time of year (late March), when everyone’s fighting for playoff spots, it’s harder; and then when they’re playing in the playoffs, it’s like ‘holy smokes, this is way harder than I thought.’
“Well the best thing that happens is that it kind of humbles those guys. They start to think, ‘wow, I’ve got some work to do.’ I haven’t seen too many guys play well right away... Shane struggled with that.”
“Obviously there was a little bit of an adjustment period, coming from college to here,” Bowers added. “Just getting here, not knowing the guys, not feeling as comfortable as I was; to now coming back here, I’ve had a full summer under my belt and kind of knowing what things are like. I’m definitely feeling more comfortable and I’m ready for it.”
Confidence comes with time, and a summer is all it took for Bowers to gain a lot of it. So much so that he survived until the literal final hours of the NHL roster cuts. After a very strong preseason performance, it looked to many as if he’d made the 23. For Bowers, however, it did not work out that way. Instead, he’ll start the season in the AHL with the Colorado Eagles.
“I was confident in my own ability and obviously it sucks getting cut,” Bowers said after practice at Budweiser Events Center, home of the Eagles. “I wanted to make that team, I want to play in the NHL, but that didn’t happen right away. I think I’m going to come here, work my hardest and help this team every night. Do the things to get better and find the things I need to work on, so I can be [in the NHL] as soon as I can.
“You know, it’s just a business. They’re doing what they think is best for the team right now and that’s their decision.”
Part of being professional is having an acute ability to handle adversity. Take for example, being sent down the minors when you feel in your heart that you truly belong in the NHL. While many might mope around, feeling sorry for themselves — as one might when receiving a demotion at work — Bowers buries his head and gets back after it.
It’s this character trait that Cronin pinpoints as Bowers’ best attribute.
“You know, you get sent down from the NHL, which is where you all want to be, and you get sent down, it’s a tough move downward,” said Cronin. “But it’s also logical, and they have to respond to it in a real professional way or they’re not going to go back up — it’s that simple. I don’t think [Bowers’] DNA would let him mope for a few days, I don’t think he mopes for half an hour. He just gets into it.”
Having confidence is key in just about every aspect of one’s life. And it’s that confidence that is taken Bowers to where he is now: a Colorado prospect who has now spring-boarded himself to the top of the Avs’ depth chart, who will soon be knocking at the door of an NHL gig — perhaps even as soon as this season.
“The one thing I identified with as a critical part in development is he had confidence and he had belief,” Cronin added. “He plays with a bit of an edge and he doesn’t change the way he’s playing and he skates, he sticks out because he’s a really, really good skater. He’s been able to convert that experience into having a little bit of a swagger at the NHL camp.
“He is arguably one of the more visible players every time he plays the game. I’m happy for him, it’s a real bonus for the organization and I think he’s a good enough kid to where if he has to spend some time down here [in the AHL] and wait his turn, he will and he’s going to work everyday to get better.”
That is exactly Bowers’ plan, too.
“At the end of the day, you kind of have to take it into your own hands and be confident in your development and I think that’s what I’m going to try to do here,” said Bowers. “I’m going to help this team win every night, and at the same time get better every night.”
Like his smooth skating ability, he’s taking the pro life in stride. Now entering his first full season, the growing pains of yesteryear have subsided, and a more comfortable and even more confident Bowers will take the ice this season. He’ll be a part of an Eagles team that is expected to do some damage this season.
But who knows how long he’ll stay down in Loveland. If he carries his momentum of a strong preseason performance with him to the AHL, Bowers’ phone might start receiving some calls from Joe Sakic, sooner rather than later.
“Yeah, obviously that’s the goal. I want to play in the NHL and I want to play in the NHL for a long time,” added Bowers. “[I’ll] keep doing what I’m doing here, and like I said, do what I can to help the team here and be a good teammate, a good person, and you know if I get that call, great, that’s awesome, but if I don’t I’m just going to keep working, for sure.”