Bye Bye Bylsma

Comic relief is the only way Penguins fans will be able to sleep following another signature collapse from their team. This year wasn’t like others, however. A year ago, the Penguins were figured out and the Boston Bruins dominated them early on and then played defensive hockey at home and swept the series. The series against the Rangers, aside from games two through four, the Penguins seemed to lack a level of emotion that is a must have in the playoffs.

It’s Bylsma’s Fault

In the playoffs, a team needs to be ready to play, physically and emotionally. There is no arguing that the Penguins are a more talented team (on paper) than the Rangers are. But the Rangers were a much better team in the latter half of this series. They played as one unit and found ways to win games. They rallied around their teammate Martin St. Louis and his tragic loss and they haven’t lost since the heartbreaking news. The Penguins had to match that level of emotion and Coach Dan Bylsma is the one who’s responsible to do that. Bylsma needed to find a way to motivate his team and get them ready to match the desperation and emotion that the Rangers played with… he didn’t do that and for that reason, he won’t be returning to Pittsburgh next year.

I’ll never say Bylsma is a bad coach, I’ve even made the claim he’s the Best Coach in the NHL… in the regular season. He makes the right moves, puts the right players together and has a great strategic system that works and led the Pens to a Stanley Cup in 2009. But, he’s lost the attention of his super stars and in doing so, lost the locker room. In 2009, he was new and the players hung on his every move. Crosby and Malkin were young and the leadership of Maxime Talbot & Ruslan Fedotenko created the perfect mixture for a Stanley Cup run.

Dan Bylsma hasn't been the same since his Cup run (AxsDenny/Flickr)

Dan Bylsma hasn’t been the same since his Cup run (AxsDenny/Flickr)

But in the years following, Bylsma had failed to hold the attention of his locker room. He hasn’t been back to the Stanley Cup Finals since winning it in 2009, meaning he’s never made it to the Finals after being the coach at training camp.

Pittsburgh has created very high expectations for their Hockey club… Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin saved hockey in Pittsburgh, and a new arena and a Cup have made Pittsburgh among the Elite in the NHL. Crosby and Malkin are in their prime and Bylsma is lacking the necessary trait to motivate his superstars that will put the Pens back in the Stanley Cup Finals. Mario Lemiuex and Ray Shero are not going to continue settling for early round exits and collapses and something has got to give.

Crosby isn’t going anywhere. Malkin isn’t going anywhere. And after this season and playoff series’, I don’t think Marc-Andre Fleury is leaving town either. (He proved himself and made big saves to close out the Columbus series and played pretty great hockey vs. New York and kept his team in every game.)

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Bylsma is to blame. His players weren’t emotionally charged and that’s his fault. His superstars didn’t produce and it’s his job to put them in positions to succeed; he didn’t do that well enough apparently. Success starts with the coach and Bylsma has had enough chances to prove himself, and he hasn’t done so. He’s gone.

The Penguins need a fresh face and they’ll get one. They’ll also be losing much more than just Bylsma, but he’s first. Life isn’t fair for NHL coaches, but he won’t be a ‘free agent’ for long.

Give Credit Where It’s Due…

Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely incredible after game four; shut down Pens offense.

Be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #THW.

 

Brady Smith

Brady Smith

Smith is currently a student at West Virginia University. He's a hockey enthusiast and currently covers the Penguins for The Hockey Writers. Follow him on twitter @BSmithWV
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7 Comments

  1. Let’s not absolve guys like Shero and Crosby of their share of the blame here.

    I agree it’s time for Bylsma to leave and he has his flaws. But those flaws are not so much in my opinion to be “regular season vs playoffs” flaws but, rather, just general flaws that i believe he’ll learn from. I hope he learns to be a bit more authoritarian with his future club and establish the pecking order……the coach is the boss and the players are the subordinates regardless of their talent or pedigree (allowing Crosby to shun Iginla as a line mate is one example, and deferring to Crosby’s petulance on the bench while trying to coach him in this series would be another). I hope he learns to better cater to the strengths of his roster and dress guys contextually when different situations arise, such as dressing an Engo or Glass to counter the punishment of guys like Dubinsky or Staal. I hope he learns to hold all players to the same standard. Guys like Despres and Bortuzzo would be banished to WBS for the slightest of on-ice infractions while the vets could screw up with reckless abandon and never get scratched. These were his failings IMO.

    Shero presided over a roster that got worse every year since the Cup win. And it’s reached a point where our bottom 6 was just horrible and rendered this team extremely easy to defend and counter with our lack of depth. In addition, there have been steady issues with the toughness and character of this roster. I felt like we were quickly becoming the 08-10 Washington Capitals. All the toughness and accountability went right out of town. Maybe he felt Crosby and Malkin would become the leaders that guys like Guerin and Roberts were, but it obviously never panned out. Maybe it’s because he played his part in fostering an atmosphere where the stars ran the show. Last year’s deadline haul was an all-in desperation move IMO and the talent wasn’t utilized properly. Part of that is on Dan for letting Sid dictate his line mates, and part of that is Shero for not stepping in and re-asserting the power structure when it all started going bad.

    That brings me to Sid. I think he’s got a lot of soul searching to do. He deserves a lot of the ridicule and criticism he’s going to get over the course of this offseason, and through next season into the playoffs….until he can begin to prove himself when it counts again. There’s a poll on TSN right now asking who’s the better big game player, Sid or Toews. Results are 80-20 in favor of Toews. That’s where Sid is in the public opinion. That would’ve been stunning a few years ago. It’s not anymore. What a fall from grace. He’s become Peyton Manning. Horrible body language. Publicly arguing with his coach on the bench when he knows damn well the cameras are on him. Apparently Mario’s tutelage is no longer any help. I hope this experience will humble him. He needs it IMO. And he needs to be receptive to the fact that the next coach in the door is the boss. If the new guy wants him to drop Duper and Kuni as line mates, then Sid should shut his trap and play with who he’s told to play with. The shine is off his star in my eyes (in a lot of people’s eyes). But he can earn it back by doing all the right things over the next year and into the playoffs. It’s going to be a process for him. And how he handles it will be the story of him in the end.

    Reports out of Pittsburgh today that both Shero and Bylsma are on the chopping block and that’s as it should be. But there are now other disturbing stories trickling out that some of the reasons Dan lost the room is that the vet players didn’t like attending “numerous meetings”, the “overly long practices”, and complained that the atmosphere “wasn’t fun anymore”. WHAAAATT?! This is professional sports. Going to numerous meetings is part of the job description. Overly long practices? Dan cancels practice all the time for these guys, even after ugly listless losses when he should be bag skating them to death. It’s not fun? It’s a JOB. All this stuff coming out just reeks of a country club atmosphere where the inmates are running the asylum. That comes from the top (Shero) and trickles down. There’s also word coming out that Sid and Geno didn’t like Dan criticizing them (i.e. coaching them) in meetings. LOL.

    So let’s make sure guys like Shero and Sid take their medicine here too, because they both deserve it. No more excuses for Sidney Crosby.

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  3. Mathieu Gagnon says:

    I’d trade Malkin! What hurt Pittsburgh the most this season is the lack “NHL players” When you have 2 Superstars making 8-9.5M/year like Sid and Malkin, you’re depriving yourself of 2-3 decent players. I’d trade Malkin for 2-3 very good prospects (1 or 2 NHL-Ready) and maybe 1 bottom 6 player.

    Personally I think it’s time to trade Malkin (preferably to a western conference team) get out of that 9.5M/year deal. Is he really worth more than Crosby?

    • Brady Smith Brady Smith says:

      In sports, owners tend to protect their superstars and the coaches pay. Malkin is a superstar and loves Pittsburgh and in turn, Pittsburgh loves him. I understand the salary cap issue that 71 and 87 create, but they are likely life long Pens.

  4. I think he’s a great coach… Had a lot of injuries this season.

    • Brady Smith Brady Smith says:

      I agree Eric. I think he’s a great coach, he just isn’t the guy for Pittsburgh anymore. They need a new face that the players will listen to. It’s time for a new direction because Bylsma’s isn’t working.

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