Reporting Colin Dunlap
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Hey Dan Bylsma, listen up and listen up good.
Starting Thursday night, you are coaching a three-game series against the Islanders for your Penguins coaching life.
Got that? Between Thursday night and Sunday, there will be three chances to beat the Islanders twice. If you fail to do, consider yourself, almost certainly, the former head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And get this: winning this series, alone, might still not secure your place as big boss man of Mario’s bunch headed into next season.
No, you just might have to guide this club — one of the greatest collections of individual talent in franchise history — into the Stanley Cup Finals to ward off a pink slip.
Not to be too harsh, but those are the realities.
And they should be. With an embarrassment of riches come gargantuan expectations.
The assumption here, Mr. Disco, is that you’d like to remain employed as the head coach of the Penguins moving into the 2013-2014 season. That said, let me offer some unsolicited advice. Now, Lester Patrick I ain’t, but this stuff seems pretty easy to prescribe to your club that is tied, 2-2, in a series against an Islanders team that appears to have inferior talent yet an ability to expedite the pace of play.
First, and quite obviously, Tomas Vokoun, a man who was brought in here to spell Marc-Andre Fleury in the regular season and then provide insurance in the playoffs, needs to play from this point until he loses. In short, if Vokoun wins Game 5, he needs to play Game 6. If he wins Game 5 and Game 6, he needs to play the opener of the next series.
Simple as that with the first point; Vokoun plays from right now until he loses.
Now to the second thing you need to do if you want to keep your job — do you know Russian?
More to that fact, do you know any Russian swear words?
Hopefully you do, because it’s time to find a remote place within the underbelly of CONSOL Energy Center, summon Evgeni Malkin into that place and use those words. Every single one of them.
In a one-sided conversation.
Dress him down and do it good.
Look, Malkin has reached an expiration date with the fan base here in Pittsburgh; given his penchant for selfishness and acting like a 6-year-old. Quite frankly, just about everyone has seen enough of his refusal to fully buy into the system, attempt to make games his personal showcase and also his penchant for taking stupid penalties because of a need to get back at someone.
Someone is the player and someone is the coach. It’s time to make that known — to the player — and make Malkin understand his childish behavior is intolerable.
Do it in English.
Do it is Russian.
Hell, do it in both. No one cares. But just do it.
And lastly, there needs to be a deep measure of defense that needs instilled within this team headed into the next few games. Something, anything, that can ward off the spate of goals that has been scored and the quick pace with which the Islanders have moved the puck.
After that marvelous 5-0 victory in Game 1 of the series, your team has certainly — especially on Tuesday night in a 6-4 loss — scored enough goals to win most games, but the defense has been putrid.
Want to keep your job, Dan? Slow things down, take a breath, check tighter. Forget the open ice, play this game in a phone booth.
Look, I get that a Stanley Cup and Jack Adams Award are nice things on a resume. I also get that 201 wins in 318 regular-season chances in your career as a head coach is beyond marvelous.
But all that means nothing right now.
Everyone is looking at the second-round exit against Montreal and first-round flops against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia as what has become a trend.
If the trend continues, if the Penguins can’t get out of the first round, the ax will fall on you Dan Bylsma.
That’s just the way it is.
You are coaching for your job when that puck drops Thursday night.
Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.