Neil Smith, the legendary general manager of the Stanley Cup-winning 1994 New York Rangers, now advises major corporations and businesses on leadership development, management techniques and team-building. Learn more about the topics Neil can discuss with your business at Neil’s Topics. To have Neil speak with your conference, business, or class, please email Michael Geller at

It may be surprising, but in the N.H.L., a long winning streak is often followed by a long losing streak. Take, for example, the 2008 Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. In late January, the Wings went on a tear, rolling over their opponents with eight consecutive wins. But the Red Wings followed that winning streak with 10 losses in their next 11 games. 

When we think about the slump that our country is currently experiencing we have to remember what a roll we were on not so long ago. Confidence was high, and people were taking risks, sometimes foolishly. And this is the main point here, which is that when things are going good in life, you think it’s never going to end. You might start to take your eye off the ball, or the puck, as it were.

This is especially true in team sports where teammates together start to let up on some of the basics that got them all those wins in the first place. They might start to develop bad habits or poor work habits near the end of their winning streak. Sometimes they keep right on winning for a few more games, depending on the strength of their opponents.

But sooner or later, it hits—they lose for the first time in a long time. The players don’t understand how they could lose when everything was going so good. In any case, they shake it off as only being one game. The coaches know they’re going to have to analyze what went wrong by breaking down the game. Eventually they’re going to have to get the players to go back to the basics and pay more attention to the details. (Roger Neilson was a legendary coach that I worked with from 1989 to 1993 who would say he could feel a slump coming by his sense of the team getting sloppy.) Read more

  • “Neil Smith was able to do what no other general manager could in 54 years for the New York Rangers-win the Stanley Cup! It was Neil's bold approach to changing the culture that allowed the team to galvanize into champions.”