Colin Dunlap: Focus Really On Fleury, Bylsma
Buy Penguins Tickets
Ryan Kesler would have been great — but it never happened.
Marcel Goc seems like a nice addition.
So, too, does Lee Stempniak.
All well and good as the Penguins supplemented their offensive attack with some grit in Goc and versatility in Stempniak at the NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday.
But aren’t we missing the main story here?
Aren’t we all overlooking the chief components that need to improve from the last few seasons if the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to win a Stanley Cup?
Seems simple to me: Dan Bylsma needs to coach better and Marc-Andre Fleury needs to play better.
Certainly much of the talk in the lead-up to the Trade Deadline had been centered around an acquisition the club was going to make. Were they going to land a much-sought-after-forward like Kesler, a complementary piece (or pieces) like they eventually did or, even, add depth on the blue line or backing up Fleury?
Again — this was all secondary.
If the Penguins want to march through the rest of March triumphantly, and then win when it really counts in April and thereafter, they must get production from two gentlemen who were already part of the organization before Wednesday at 3 p.m. — Bylsma and Fleury.
To wit: No one needs to be reminded, in chapter and verse form, about all that has happened in the postseason miseries that Bylsma has guided this club to since he took over in Feb. 2009 and guided the Penguins to the Stanley Cup that season.
Since then …
Bounced by Montreal in the conference semifinals.
Bounced by Tampa Bay in the conference quarterfinals.
Bullied and battered by Philadelphia in the conference quarterfinals.
And then, last season, blanked by the Bruins in the conference finals.
Four cracks at reaching the Stanley Cup finals since the 2009-10 season for Bylsma — and arguable a few times with the top talent — and he has fallen short each time. Some can let those failures rest at the feet of the players or the thrust in play with which the opponents performed, but at some point it becomes clear that Byslma needs to coach better in the playoffs. That point has been reached. Nothing the Penguins did or didn’t do at the Trade Deadline on Wednesday was going to change such a fact.
Wasn’t going to change the concept that Fleury needs to play better in the playoffs, either.
Again, talk and talk and talk (and talk some more) about the acquisitions the Penguins needed to make at the deadline, but doesn’t much of the Penguins’ success or failure in the next few months rest on the abilities of Fleury?
I think so.
And that wasn’t going to change much — if at all — based on what the Penguins did on Wednesday.
See, this is a goaltender in Fleury who has scuffled through the postseason since winning that Stanley Cup in 2008-09. He has put up save percentages of .891, .899, .834 and .883 since, has a 14-16 playoff record the last four seasons and was famously yanked as the top guy for Tomas Vokoun during last postseason.
Guys with a seven-year, $35 million contract shouldn’t be a liability in the playoffs.
But he has been.
At some point it needs to ring loud and clear to every single person that Fleury needs to play better in the playoffs if this team really wants to have their optimal shot at winning another Stanley Cup. That point has been reached. Nothing the Penguins did or didn’t do at the Trade Deadline on Wednesday was going to change such a fact.
So if you must, make an enormous deal about the Penguins not getting Kesler. Make the story about what Goc or Stempniak can bring to the club.
Me? I just can’t.
What happened — or didn’t — at the deadline for these Penguins will serve to change things very, very little if Bylsma and Fleury don’t change their ways a whole lot in the playoffs.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.