Colin Dunlap: This Time, Dan Bylsma Must Go
I wrote these same words at the end of last season; I will write them even more confidently now: Dan Bylsma must be terminated.
There is absolutely, positively no way around it.
The Penguins coach must pay with his job. He should be “former Penguins coach” in short order.
Swiftly, sternly and firmly a change behind the bench needs to happen as we sit here in the aftermath of yet another playoff debacle — this one, perhaps, the most befuddling.
At 9:41 p.m. on Tuesday night the final horn sounded in Game 7 —- and should have signified the end for Bylsma —- as the New York Rangers rallied back from a 3-1 series deficit.
Rangers 2, Penguins 1.
That’s what should happen.
Well documented were the Penguins’ — and by extension Bylsma’s – postseason shortfalls in the past four seasons before this series saw one puck drop. You know about the Canadiens and the Lightning; you certainly remember the Flyers and the Bruins.
All lower seeds and all victorious over the Penguins.
Now this happens.
The crazy part about this series is that the Penguins played with a zest and enthusiasm not realized the last few games in Game 7, they came out with a battle level not seen in the previous 120 minutes in this series as they sleepwalked through Games 5 and 6.
Some might congratulate the club for the fervor with which they played in the series finale.
Not me —- and that’s not being a glass-half-empty guy, that’s looking at things in realistic form. Guys shouldn’t be congratulated for playing hard. That’s what they’re supposed to do, that’s what they are paid to do.
Players should, however, be taken to task when they don’t play hard — and that’s what happened in all of Game 5. It was a listless effort, to be kind. There were points in Game 6 when they were indolent, as well.
Certainly a level of blame is on the players for playing so lethargic in that game, but in professional sports, coaches pay when teams aren’t prepared or don’t exert full determination.
It’s time for Dan Bylsma to pay. For me, it is past time; but I will settle for better late than never.
Bylsma had the audacity, on the eve of Game 7, to make comments about how much of great opportunity this game was for the franchise and, furthermore, how these are the types of games “you dream of” growing up.
You dream about playing in a game where you frittered away a 3-games-to-1 lead in a series?
These are the Game 7s you dream about playing?
The ones in which, about a week ago, all the talk was about how the opposing team had to play somewhere in the area of 417 games in the span of 8 days.
The hubris, conceit and arrogance of such a statement on the eve of Game 7 was categorically mind-boggling by Bylsma.
This Game 7 wasn’t a game the Penguins should have relished playing in, but rather, one they should have been embarrassed to be playing in after letting the Rangers off the hook and back into the series. Instead, Bylsma wanted to celebrate it somehow.
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
Bylsma did make a change in Game 7, albeit one that proved rather bland, as he inserted Tanner Glass into the lineup, forcing Beau Bennett to a seat high above the CONSOL ice in the press box.
And neither did the unorthodox move of having the Penguins stay in a Pittsburgh hotel the night before Game 7, rather than sleep in their own beds. That move, to me at least, smacked of desperation and nervousness and spoke volumes about not trusting their initial routine. That is to say, who goes through an entire season doing something one way and then changes it up just before the game of utmost consequence?
Such a setup wasn’t why the Penguins lost Game 7. Not at all. But staying in a hotel the night before Game 7 is a prime example of Bylsma frazzling in the postseason.
He’s done it before, he did it this time again — he frazzled in the postseason. If the Penguins give Bylsma another chance, what makes anyone think he won’t frazzle again and bow out prematurely in the postseason?
That’s why he must be terminated.
Here’s the thing: I take no satisfaction in writing these words. Think about it from the vantage of this column; who truly wants to write — or push forth the notion at all — that another man should be terminated, that another person should be put out of work? No one wants to do it.
But it is the reality.
So too is this: Bylsma is, by all accounts a wonderful family man and does tons for the community. He’s a very, very good guy if I’m to believe the people I know who know him very well. And I have no reason not to believe them.
But he’s not in the business of being judged for being a good guy. He’s in the business of winning hockey games.
Bylsma has won plenty. However, he’s lost too many big ones.
And for that, he must go.