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Penguins

Colin Dunlap: I Blindly Trust Mario Lemieux

By: Colin Dunlap - CBS Pittsburgh
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(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/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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Call me crazy, that’s fine.

But I blindly trust Mario Lemieux.

I blindly trust that he’s going to win in this situation — because Lemieux is tired of losing.

And, well, Mario Lemieux always seems to win when he really, really needs to.

Lemieux, the co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins along with billionaire business magnate Ron Burkle, had enough of General Manager Ray Shero.

Late Friday morning, Lemieux and Burkle sent Penguins CEO David Morehouse to kick the feet from Shero’s gallows.

Morehouse announced, “The decision is to have a new GM come in and do the complete evaluation, to evaluate the entire hockey operations department, including the coaching staff.”

Translation: Shero is gone, head coach Dan Bylsma gets the slimmest of reprieves (for now) and the overriding sentiment is that the Penguins brass totally botched this, as Bylsma should have been sent packing too.

In truth, I feel like Bylsma should have been terminated as well, and that very well might occur in the not-too-distant future.

All this, in an admittedly bizarre turn-of-events and press conference, has forced some skepticism and bewilderment in the direction of Lemieux.

After all, in the ownership group, Lemieux is “the hockey guy” with Burkle being “the money guy” so one can deduce that this odd arrangement with Bylsma keeping his job and Shero losing his was made with very heavy input by Lemieux.

Lemieux told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, not long after terminating Shero: “That’s why we didn’t fire [Bylsma]. He’s a good coach. You look at his record in the regular season, in the playoffs. If he was fired today, there’d be a lot of teams lined up for him.

“He’s done a lot of good things for the organization and he’s been a great asset. A new GM will come in, evaluate the hockey operation, and we’ll go from there.”

Perhaps Bylsma stays.

Perhaps Bylsma is as good as gone.

That’s all uncertain.

What is certain is that Lemieux helped make a decision that now forces the Penguins into a very unorthodox arrangement and one that has many questioning their top-level decision-making.

As for me, and this is certainly blind trust in this situation, but after a deep breath, I can’t bring myself to second-guess Mario Lemieux.

Right now, Lemieux needs to win as much as he ever has as a businessman; he needs to get it right as much as he ever needed to.

Can you bring yourself to bet against Lemieux when the situation is biggest?

I know I surely cannot.

Maybe it’s because I’m 37-years-old and still remember Lemieux skating effortlessly through the neutral zone early on in his career, darting through defensemen and beating a goaltender time and again.

Our Mario never failed — our Mario always won.

Maybe it’s because I’m 37-years-old and still remember Lemieux, late in his career, telling stories about how much of a chore it was — with that incapacitated back — just to tie his skates and then going out and still scoring goal after goal.

Our Mario never failed — our Mario always won.

Maybe it’s because I’m 37-years-old and still remember Lemieux, in the focus of beating cancer in 1993, coming back to help the Penguins win 17 games in a row after he underwent radiation treatment.

Our Mario, even then, never failed — our Mario always won.

Maybe it’s because I’m 37-years-old and still remember, in the throes of that comeback and beating cancer, Lemieux flying to Philadelphia on the final day of his radiation treatment and getting a goal and an assist. But, even more impressive, getting a standing ovation from — of all people — those cretins who normally behaved like animals at The Spectrum.

Our Mario never failed — our Mario always won. And, hell, he even won over Philadelphia one night; perhaps the toughest crowd in the universe.

Maybe it’s because I’m 37-years-old and still remember the overtures from Kansas City and the talks with Jim Balsillie and how much of a scare it put into many of us that, in reality, the Penguins could be flying away to another locale.

And for good.

But they didn’t; Mario found a way.

Our Mario, again, didn’t fail — our Mario always won.

The new building came, the team stayed.

So here we are again, with Lemieux smack-dab in the vortex of a position where he needs to come through in a humongous situation for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Certainly, the way he’s gone about things has been unconventional and raised the eyebrows of a great number of the Penguins-interested population.

I might be wrong in the end, but I blindly trust that he’s going to get this thing right.

Our Mario, it seems, always wins.

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

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