PITTSBURGH (KDKA)- Dan Bylsma, Buffalo Sabres head coach, returns to Pittsburgh for the first time as a member of the other team. Tomorrow night, the Penguins are set to face-off against the Sabres for the first time this year. During his travel south of I-80, Bylsma wasn’t expecting to feel the way he did about coming back.
“Different than I thought,” said Bylsma. “I’ve been here for a year, just living in Pittsburgh. We didn’t get to come through the tunnel, because of construction. We came from the North Side and into the city, and I was surprised that how much it felt like home.”
Bylsma was hired by the Penguins in 2009 after they released former-coach Michel Therrien. The Penguins were 10th overall in the Eastern Conference in mid-February.
From there, Bylsma led the team to their first Stanley Cup victory since 1992. They went 18-3-4 in their final 25 games to earn a fourth place seed in the NHL Playoffs.
From then on, Bylsma’s expectations were sky-high and unfortunately, they never diminished.
“We had a great team. We had a lot of wins. I knew as we went along that we had to win again. I knew when we didn’t win against the Rangers that it was going to be it. I have no problems with that. My disappointment is that we didn’t win again,” said Bylsma.
The Penguins were up 3-1 against the New York Rangers in the Divisional Finals last year. But, the Rangers won the final three games. The Penguins were done and so was Bylsma.
“There was a press conference announcing that Ray Shero had been fired,” said Bylsma. “For me, I knew that after the Rangers game, that I wasn’t going to be back. Whether that was two days, three weeks or five weeks, I knew that the expectations were at its peak. We needed to win. We needed to win another Stanley Cup, and really anything short of that was going to be a failure.”
In Bylsma’s time with the Penguins, he won a Stanley Cup, a Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s “Most Outstanding Coach,” a Metropolitan Division title and an Atlantic Division title in six seasons.
Coming back Thursday night is something that Bylsma will feel emotional about, especially if the Pittsburgh fans give him an ovation before the game begins.
“I think pretty emotional. Even walking into the building today, the empty seats, I pictured the fans in the crowd. I can picture people in what seats they are in. It’s going to be pretty emotional and pretty odd,” Bylsma said.
“I’ve gotten used to the blue and yellow. I’ve gotten used to wearing those colors and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s game.”