In the wake of another playoff failure, the Pittsburgh Penguins started shaking up the future of the franchise Friday.
However, it wasn’t the scenario anyone expected.
Penguins President and CEO David Morehouse announced that General Manager Ray Shero had been relieved of his duties. It was also announced that Assistant GM Jason Botterill has been named the interim general manager and will be a candidate for the full-time job.
However, Dan Bylsma is still the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins – for now.
According to Morehouse, Bylsma’s future will be decided after the new general manager’s evaluation of the team.
If you’re confused by this, you’re not alone.
Morehouse said the team wanted to take a “systematic” approach in an attempt to fix the problems with the Penguins. On some level, this makes sense.
It makes sense that you would want your new general manager to have some say about the coaching staff.
With the NHL Draft only a few weeks away, blowing it up and starting from scratch isn’t exactly beneficial – especially for a team that was one win from the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, what about the flip side of this equation? What kind of situation is the new general manager walking into?
We all know the fans aren’t in charge of hockey decisions for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
We also know the fans are not happy. When fans aren’t happy, money starts to dry up. Playoff ticket availability and sales will tell you that.
Fans have been calling for Bylsma to be fired for the better part of two years.
As a result, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that the fans will forever judge the new general manager by what he does with Bylsma.
He can win the fans on day one by relieving Bylsma of his duties. He can also become public enemy number one by retaining him.
There is no middle ground.
Consider this as well: What if the Penguins’ ownership group is okay with Bylsma as the coach?
Follow me here for a second.
This is the most compelling argument I can make in support of Bylsma:
Bylsma has only been a coach in the NHL for a little over five years and he has delivered a Stanley Cup. Now, let’s look at the coaches he’s lost to in the playoffs.
- 2010 Montreal – Jacques Martin
- 2011 Tampa Bay – Guy Boucher
- 2012 Philadelphia – Peter Laviolette
- 2013 Boston – Claude Julien
- 2014 New York Rangers– Alain Vigneault
The only name on that list that didn’t have vastly more experience from a coaching standpoint is Boucher.
One could argue the absence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin played a major role in losing that series.
However, it rings a little hollow after what the Penguins just did this year.
So, could part of Bylsma’s playoff problems simply come down to inexperience?
Could it also be the reason the Penguins brought Martin in as an assistant coach this season?
For the first time in recent memory, Bylsma made changes in the playoffs.
Against Columbus, he ditched having four forwards on the power play when Columbus jumped all over it. He eventually put Crosby and Malkin together for much of the remainder of their brief playoff run. He even juggled lines and the lineup for Game 7 against New York.
All I’m saying is that Martin showed up and changes were being made in the playoffs.
I don’t think that’s any coincidence. Maybe Bylsma was leaning on him as part of his evolution as an NHL coach.
I still think he should be fired, but it’s something to consider.
Again, could this decision to keep Bylsma, even temporarily, be seen as a vote of confidence by ownership?
Doesn’t the new general manager have to at least consider that possibility?
Since we’re being left to play the hypothetical game by today’s decision, could there be an ulterior motive for only removing Shero?
For example, the Washington Capitals are currently looking for a general manager and head coach. Are the Penguins trying to prevent their division rivals from hiring both Shero and Bylsma?
Would the Penguins really try to hinder a rival at the risk of hurting themselves?
You’d like to think they wouldn’t, but something just doesn’t add up.
It’s no secret that changes were coming.
One of those changes happened today, but for now, Bylsma is still the head coach.
It’s a pretty interesting way to start the offseason if you ask me.
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