Dan Bylsma… The Best Coach in the NHL

NHL coaches start taking a lot of heat this time of year. Past failures are brought to the surface and the skeptics begin doing what they do best… But let me make something clear: Dan Bylsma has been the Best Coach in the NHL during the 2013-2014 Season, there is no question about it.

There’s plenty of reasons as to why I believe that Bylsma is the best this season, but let me make one good argument… Of the 35 players who’ve suited up in black and gold this season, only six have played in every contest. Many of the game one starters (Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Chuck Kobasew, etc.) have suffered major injuries that have taken away from their ice time and forced the Pens management to make moves. Along with that, Malkin suffered a lower body injury that forced him to miss a chunk of time, and we all remember the Brooks Orpik incident in Boston , and yet, the Penguins haven’t missed a beat.

Bylsma Fights the Injury Bug

Despite losing more man games than most other NHL teams this season, the Penguins still find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference. Despite constantly shuffling lines and having defenseman play forward, the Penguins still hold an 18 point lead in the Metropolitan Division and are very close to clinching a playoff spot.

How’s all the possible? Coaching. Sure, Ray Shero deserves a lot of credit of making moves and bringing the right people in, but Bylsma is an absolute genius when it comes to putting players in a position to succeed. Example number one: Chris Kunitz.

Chris Kunitz is pointless in his last six games. His longest such streak of the season. (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

Chris Kunitz is having a phenomenal season and has Crosby and Coach Bylsma to thanks (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

Kunitz is a great player, but on most teams, he is not a first line winger. Yet, he’s scored 31 goals and could possibly get to 40 this year. Why? Bylsma recognizes that Kunitz plays well with the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby. Not everyone can play with such a force; Kunitz can and he does it well. Most coaches would put their best winger on the first line… not Bylsma. He puts players in position to make the team better. James Neal and Evgeni Malkin are incredible together; Crosby and Kunitz are incredible together.

But two dynamic duo’s don’t give you an 18 point division lead with a month left to play in the season. Having a coach who can make his players all buy in, play team hockey, and be able to insert many different players into a system and contribute to the team is what makes a hockey team great.

Bylsma’s SYSTEM Works

Bylsma coaches TEAM and SYSTEM hockey, despite having two of the best players in the world. When the Penguins depend on their talent to win games, they lose the Eastern Conference finals 4 games to none.  But when the play four line system hockey and lock down on defense, they win hockey games and look good in doing so. Bylsma can’t execute his system on the ice, he can only put his players into the best possible position to do so.

People can say what they want about Dan Bylsma, but it’s much easier to coach from your couch than rink side. Most coaches wouldn’t be able to handle such superstardom in the locker room, the media of such a prestigious hockey town, and the expectations that fans and management give. But Bylsma does, and he does well.

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
Brady Smith
RT @WVUHockey: Need another reason to come out to tonight's game?! Your Mountaineers are now ranked #21 !!!! - 1 hour ago
Brady Smith
Brady Smith

9 Comments

  1. Billy Keketsian says:

    As far as I’m concerned, a piece like this after the debacles of the last few seasons means that you either have no clue what you’re watching, or you’re an apologist for the team.

    Neither one reflects well on you.

    Kunitz and Guerin were traded for SPECIFICALLY to play with Crosby, so putting Kunitz on his line after he immediately played well with Crosby and keeping him there wasn’t exactly splitting the atom. I remember Kunitz playing pretty well with Malkin when Sid was out with his concussion.

    Want to prove to someone that you actually know what you’re writing about? Explain to me what Dan Bylsma’s “system” is. You know which one I’m talking about right? It’s the one where the defenseman fires pucks up ice to flat footed forwards for chip and chase hockey, even thought by definition a flat footed forward isn’t able to get to the puck first.

    Thanks to your “article”, this site is now worthless.

    • I’d like to thank you for your feedback and comments. I would first like to say that this is my opinion and mine only; to discredit the entire site because of this is outlandish. Secondly, I’d like to say that this team needs no “apologetics.” They are just fine.

      Whether you agree with my article or not, you can’t deny the fact that Bylsma had the most man games lost in the NHL and still secured the #2 seed in the East, with half of his roster AHL regulars.

      You don’t have to agree with me, that’s the beauty of sports. Give me your professional hockey page to where I can find your articles and I’d be glad to read them.

  2. I’m speechless. This team could sleepwalk to 100 points in this division. The playoffs are all that matter and DB had be awful. He has been routinely out couched and outclassed by competitors. His handling of players defies description. His system is torn apart by any good fore-checking team or any hard working team with size no matter their talent level. Iff a team has both, Boston, then his system is overwhelmed.

  3. Scott Hartnell says:

    I’ve been staring at my screen with my mouth open for minutes because I don’t even know where to begin correcting you about this article.

  4. kevin johnson says:

    Bylsma is a terrible coach. The only reason you have a coach at this level in for when things go wrong. When all your previous game planning is neutralized by the other team. He’s simply unable to adjust or motivate his players when things go wrong. If one playoff failure after another is not enough to prove that to the management of the Penguins, nothing will.

  5. SuitcaseJohnny says:

    I do think Dan is a great coach, and I think his system works, when the players actually stick to the system. That said, I think his time in Pittsburgh is almost up. If he can’t get the Pens to the Cup Finals this year, it’s time for a new voice in the locker room. I think that the players no longer listen to him, and they see him more as a friend than an authority figure. That needs to change. Yes, he is a great coach, but perhaps no longer the RIGHT coach for this Pens team.

  6. Having superstar players makes a coaches job much tougher. That’s all I need to say there.
    Kunitz, as I stated, is a great player. But he’s NOT a first liner without Crosby and he’s NOT an Olympian without Crosby. You pointed out that Kunitz has one other 60 point season. Let’s not forget who else was on the Stanley Cup Champ team: Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Rob Niedermayer… The list goes on. Kunitz’s production dropped off tremendously until he found himself on Kunitz’s line in 2011. I’m taking away from the fact that the TK-Stall-Kunitz line wasn’t a game changing line, but Bylsma recognized Kunitz-Crosby chemistry. Bylsma puts Kunitz into the best possible position to produce. Whether you agree or not, Coach Bylsma deserves credit for Kunitz’s production.

    • Kunitz’s production production dropped off because he played in 136 in Pittsburgh’s 246 games since joining the team. Not only did he have a 60 point season in Anaheim, he followed that up with a 50 point season the following season. When he’s played at least 60 games in a season, he’s only failed to score at least 20 goals twice – one in which was his rookie year. The other was his final year in Anaheim; and even then, he only played 62 games. So it’s arguable if he’s an Olympian without Crosby. But still, that’s because Team Canada has such an enormous pool of talent to choose from.

      In the 2006-07 season, Kunitz led Getzlaf and Perry in points, despite playing less games. To state a fact, he would definitely be a 1st liner on the majority of teams in the league. If anyone is who they are because of Crosby and so forth, it’s Bylsma.

  7. I cannot disagree more. Kunitz had 50 and 60 points season without Crosby. He score good goals when Crosby and Malkin were injured, he and Staal made Tyler Kennedy look like a scoring winger. He was a first liner with every team he played for. Thinking Kunitz is DBs product is just nonsense. We better give Kunitz the credit he deserves, he is first line winger. If there were any doubts before, then he showed in the gold medal game how good he is.

    Claiming DB was the greatest coach ever despite his obvious lack of coaching ability in playoff games must be meant ironically.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required Email Address * Name Email Format html text mobile