What Exactly Are the Pittsburgh Penguins Doing?

To answer the question simply: Im really not sure.

GM Ray Shero (AxsDeny/Flickr)
Former Pens’ GM Ray Shero (AxsDeny/Flickr)

As I write this column, I’ve had just over 12 hours to digest the news of Ray Shero’s dismissal. Then listen to, read, and process all that the Pittsburgh sports media had to give us on the matter. And I’m still not quite sure that I understand it fully.

My guess is, not many of you are real sure about any of this either.

So let’s start with what we know: Ray Shero was relieved of his duties today by co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. Team President and CEO David Morehouse delivered the news to the gathered media.

In what was thought to be at first, an accidental omission by Morehouse to not also mention that head coach Dan Bylsma had been fired along with Shero, turned out to be a calculated move by ownership.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Dejan Kovacevic was able to sit down with ownership (Lemieux & Burkle) and Morehouse after the press conference to ask anything he felt necessary, all on the record. I highly suggest that you click the above link and read his entire column.

Because without those questions and answers being published, we as Penguins’ fans would know next to nothing of the team’s plans moving forward.

Having read Kovacevic’s piece numerous times throughout the day, I’ve tried to make some sense of the answers provided by Penguins’ ownership, and how it pertains to yesterday’s actions.

So far as I can tell, ownership prefers to take a “systematic approach” to revamping the franchise’s front office and hockey operations department. Rather than completely gutting the organization’s executives, ownership seems to prefer that the new GM be able to come in and make all of the necessary decisions for himself.

Which includes retaining or firing Bylsma.

Okay I get that. Lemieux and Burkle seem to want to be assured that whoever the new GM is, he has as many options in terms of a head coach available to him as possible. That includes Bylsma.

When asked about the view that ownership retained Bylsma to prevent him from taking another job, specifically with a division rival such as the Washington Capitals or Carolina Hurricanes, Lemieux responded:

“No. If Dan was fired, he’d get a job tomorrow.”

Which is precisely why the question was asked. Lemieux made Kovacevic’s point for him. Byslma would most certainly end up with another job prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Final this year, which would be right around two weeks time from now.

So then, if its not malicious intent to keep Bylsma from taking a coaching position with a division foe, then why keep him around? The only logical conclusion to draw here is once again, ownership wants as many candidates in the running as possible for the new GM.


What can’t be ignored here is one of the things that Penguins’ beat reporter Rob Rossi mentioned in a piece published two days ago:

“Crosby and Malkin grew disenchanted with perceived harsh criticism they received from Bylsma during meetings, the sources said. They and other veteran players were unhappy with Bylsma’s numerous meetings and long practices and the decreasing sense of fun within the Penguins’ environment, the sources said.”

This news begs the question: if Crosby, Malkin, and other veteran players were unhappy with Bylsma, and he is somehow retained by new management, how on earth will the locker room react to this?

This is where it becomes increasingly difficult to back the decision to not let Bylsma go.

Mario Lemieux Statue
(Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

I’m not at all saying that I think he’ll be back behind the bench next season. I have all but no doubt that new management will want to bring in a new coach. “Their guy” as it were.

Unfortunately, the question once again has to be asked: “What if?”

The mantra for this team used to be “In Shero We Trust.”

With him now gone, at least for the foreseeable future the mantra MUST be “In Lemieux We Trust.”

Lets face it Penguins’ fans, he’s never let us down before.

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4 thoughts on “What Exactly Are the Pittsburgh Penguins Doing?”

  1. Shero did a crappy job drafting, but let me play Devli’s advocate for him, just for a second.

    Aside from the year we lost to Tampa Bay, when Sid and Geno were both out of the line up, and possibly this year, Shero made what appeared to be some excellent deadline moves. In all of those years since the Cup, I could look at the Penguins going in to the playoffs, and really feel like there was no one who could beat us in a seven game series. On paper, the teams looked great!

    I’m sure the message from ownership was, “win now!” Shero made the deadline deals to win now. Gave up draft picks to win now. Did all he could do to win now. Unfortunately, I don’t think the coaching staff knew how to use all the pieces they were given.

    I don’t disagree with the firing of Shero, but I also feel like he’s partly a scapegoat. It’s hard to draft well, when you are giving up draft picks to win now.

  2. Dave I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. Remember that President & CEO David Morehouse is a former political advisor and those folks are known for one thing: controlling the narrative. It seems to me that the Penguins either want Bylsma to resign his post (in which case they would not have to pay him, whereas if they fire him, he is still owed his salary for next season), or they are doing exactly what you’ve suggested in keeping him from taking another job.

    But here’s a question: If you’re Bylsma, do you even want to come back to Pittsburgh next season? Why is he staying on and not resigning?

    It seems to me that a lot of this has the smell of “all about the Benjamins.”

  3. It’s obvious what they’re doing and EVERYONE in Pittsburgh knows that Bylsma and Shero are buddies and this is nothing more than them blocking these two from landing in Washington.. I for one think it’s a great idea Keep cockblocking who cares the last thing the Pens need to do is give an organization that’s a bigger mess life.. If Bylsma would have come into Pgh in 2009 and acted like a coach instead of being their buddy he might not have lost the room this past season. Bylsma rode the coattails of Therrien’s defensive system – kept intact by Yeo and Fitzgerald- in 2009 and was able to pull the reins off of the forwards and let them skate and the players excelled. As soon as he brought his two assistants ( Granato and the inept Reirden) it bc a laxed environment. Bylsma needed to be more stern from the beginning but since Therrien was fired for losing the room due to his ability to belittle Bylsma didn’t want that. So he kind of created his own monster by being buddy buddy instead of being the boss. Then when he realized he was coaching for his job – he knew how close he came to being fired in 2013 and if it weren’t for Shero he would have been- he started doing things differently with his 4 hour meetings and asking 87 and 71 to do more bc he wanted to stay. Obviously when you do things one way for 5 years and try to switch it up at the last minute with a poor roster it’s not going to work.. After what these two clowns did to this organization with 71 and 87 in their primes they deserve to be cockblocked… No GM in their right mind signs 4 to that ridiculous contract, keeps hindering the young D from breaking into the NHL, and signs 33 yr old forwards to almost $4 million contracts. Disagree all you want but Besides the Hossa and Neal trade Shero was overrated. Clearly when the only drafted forward to have NHL success is gone you’re not doing too good of a job..

  4. Personally I think there is some duplicity going on here. All the same guys from the Trib who are now reporting that ownership wants to let the new GM make the call on Bylsma were the ones reporting that ownership were unanimous in their desire to fire him just a day or two before the Shero announcement. I just think the Pens are trying to keep Dan/Shero from jumping to a rival together. I also think there might have been a PR element to this……..to save Crosby more of a public lashing in being labeled a “coach killer”. They can put it on the new GM and dress it up by doing it the way they’re doing it.

    Ownership is saying they wouldn’t stop Bylsma from pursuing other opportunities in the interim while he’s twisting in the wind in Pittsburgh and yet Morehouse made a specific statement that other teams are not allowed to contact him while he’s under contract.

    “Another team is not allowed to (contact him),” Morehouse said. “But I have complete confidence that if Dan is indeed not the coach here that he’ll quickly be picked up somewhere else.”


    So bottom line seems to be that ownership is doing Dan wrong here. We all know Dan is gone, and they’re trying to dress it up by saying “Oh Dan is such a great coach he’ll find a job no problem” BUT what they’re doing is intentionally limiting his options so that the only teams left for him to interview with are the ones left over that haven’t hired yet. I believe Dan should go and that his time with the Pens is over, but he doesn’t deserve this treatment.

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