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Colin Dunlap: There Was Another Route To Take With Bylsma

By: Colin Dunlap
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(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

dunlap-head-shot Colin Dunlap
Weeknights, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Colin grew up in Sharpsburg and...
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Ray Shero and I don’t agree.

Earlier this week, in the aftermath of a fourth-straight disappointment penned by the Pittsburgh Penguins with head coach Dan Bylsma in charge, my immediate — and still sturdy — thought was that Bylsma needed to be terminated.

On Wednesday, in an ultra-impressive, hour-long media session where Shero was candid, open and honest about the franchise, the general manager announced that Bylsma — along with his top two assistants — have been given two-year contract extensions.

The coaching staff, before the announced extensions, had contracts that were due to run out at the end of next season.

Here’s a thought, Penguins brass: Why not middle ground?

Maybe I had it wrong to want to fire Byslma, but maybe Shero has it wrong to want to extend him. And there is a wide gap, and firm middle ground between the opinion that I hold and the one that Shero holds.

Perhaps no decision, in this case, could have worked.

In short, why the need to act at all?

If you didn’t want to fire Bylsma, how about making him coach for his job during next season, Mr. Shero?

Again, let me point out that after premature exits in the playoffs against Montreal, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and now Boston, it is still my secure conviction that Wednesday’s press conference should have been one in which Shero should have been relaying to the masses the Penguins were looking for a new coach.

But, if he didn’t want to go that route — and it is quite obvious he didn’t — what would have been wrong with going into next season with Bylsma working under his original deal?

If the Penguins were so dead-set on Bylsma staying in command of this team — again, the wrong move in my view — perhaps the greatest motivation for him to grow into a better coach would have been for him to be forced with a “put-up or shut-up” scenario in 2013-14.

By not extending Bylsma, by just keeping him under the current confines of that original contract, the thought here is that it would have provided all the motivation one needed to get the playoff results.

Quite simply, you perform well then we will talk about an extension; if you don’t, you hit the unemployment line.

In the decision that Shero came to and announced on Wednesday, it appears Bylsma is being heavily rewarded for comprehensive regular-season successes, but it is disproportionately ignored that he has failed to, especially with the team assembled this past season, reach the same heights in the postseason.

As for the scenario painted here, the one to let Bylsma coach next season under the final year of his contract, what would it have hurt?

What would have been the danger in such a situation?

An NHL franchise, as it is constituted, isn’t a college team wherein coaches need to point to long-term commitment from a school in order to entice big-time recruits to their institution.

It can’t be pointed out enough that, after failing four times over in the post-season, it says here that Bylsma should have been the guy who needed to pay with his job.

That’s my opinion and isn’t changing. However, if the Penguins didn’t want to institute such a change, there was no harm in forcing Bylsma into the uncomfortable situation of coaching for his job next season.

What’s the worst that could have happened?

He might have done well in the playoffs under the individualized pressure?

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 colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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