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Bylsma goes on the record (a bit) for first time since Pens firing

Aug 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EST

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Dan Bylsma might have some hard feelings after being let go by the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer, but he certainly didn’t air those grievances during his first newspaper interview since that happened. Instead, he pretty much raved about what once was to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi.

“I think we were a model,” Bylsma said. “We had stability, great stability. From ownership, from within the organization, with our players. I was fortunate to coach in a stable situation, and I shared that vision with my general manager — and I coached for a great general manager.”

Bylsma deemed former Penguins GM Ray Shero either the best in the league or at least one of the top three. It’s easy to see why he looks back at his time pretty fondly (at least on the record), as many seem to forget just how much that group accomplished, even with series injuries in just about every full season involving the Bylsma – Shero combo.

Some other interesting takeaways:

  • He also told Rossi that he knew right away that Pittsburgh’s Game 7 defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers would mark his last time behind the team’s bench.
  • Most importantly, it doesn’t sound like he’s in a rush to find a new job, and he doesn’t believe that the Penguins intentionally stalled to keep him from getting a new one (say, with their noted rivals the Washington Capitals).
  • It’s understandable that Bylsma doesn’t want to merely take the first opportunity he receives. Rossi points out that he’ll receive $4 million from the Penguins during the next two years, giving him plenty of leeway to save up and enjoy the less stressful life that comes with being a TV analyst.
  • One intriguing theme from his former players was that Bylsma seemed to keep them on their toes with different strategies and tweaks, sometimes in the same game. That may or may not defy certain criticisms of his strategies (although obviously he might have handled the Penguins differently than the U.S. Olympic team anyway).

However you may feel about the Penguins’ postseason disappointments, it’s a bit confounding that Bylsma didn’t end up with one of the league’s 30 head coaching jobs. Then again, from the sound of things, maybe he’s looking for the right fit.

  1. billiam55 - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    firing shero was a dumb move.

    • rmccleary97 - Aug 23, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Go back and read on things Shero did and how he did them – and then look at how he regularly wedged the Pens into Cap Hell and left them relying on throw-ins for the back 2 lines and last couple of defensive spots. If anything, Shero should have been fired 2 years prior.

  2. bencia823 - Aug 22, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    I hate to say it, but my fellow penguins fans have been turning into the NHL’s version of Yankee fans. They act extremely spoiled and entitled, and anything less than a title becomes grounds for the coaches/execs to be fired. We had one of the best coaches and GM’s, and threw them away in order to bring in one of the worst GM’s and an unproven coach. much like bylsma, I like to remember the good times as well:

    • stakex - Aug 22, 2014 at 9:24 PM

      I wouldn’t say Shero was one of the best GMs in the league. Part of the reason the Pens struggled in the playoff was the unbalanced roster he crafted that was too top heavy, and lacked the depth needed to go deep. He also made no efforts to find the Pens a true number one net minder that wouldn’t give up baskets of soft playoff goals every year.

      • bencia823 - Aug 22, 2014 at 9:40 PM

        I hear the top heavy argument a lot but I have to disagree to an extent. The idea behind picking forward isn’t to have the strongest 4 lines, the goal is to have the strongest minutes. By having two number one lines, the Pens were able to gobble up 40+ minutes per game with a Top 10 line on the ice each game. The fact that recent champs have used a more depth centered model likely has more to do with the fact that nobody else can get the top 2 centers in the world, but would if they could. The pens have won a cup before with a similar roster, and the fact that they haven’t done so again has more to do with individual circumstances than roster make up.

        Fleury has proven that he can win in the playoffs already, and his regular season success (which translates to good seeds) has warranted him being kept around. Vokoun was brought in after the collapse, and proved to be a good signing last year. Every GM has their occasional bad moves (see 2014 GM of the year’s Clayton Stoner contract), but Shero has always been able to weigh the scale towards the positive end

      • rmccleary97 - Aug 23, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        Fleury: yes, he did win a Cup in 2009. J.S. Giguere won a Cup in 2007 and had a Conn Smythe from ’03, and by ’12 both of those meant squat. Since winning the Cup (a year where statistically he was worse than in losing the ’08 Finals), Fleury is 21-22, 2.94, .891 – and last year was the first one where he had a SV% over .900 since 2009. Maybe more telling: in 92 career playoff games, he’s allowed 4 or more goals 28 times (2 of those went to OT). If the game is 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 he’s a career … 6-5. In other words, he’s likely to give up goals every time out; if the Pens are going to win, it relies on them scoring a bunch of goals, not on Fleury slamming the door shut when needed.

        For a team trying to win a Cup, that’s not a smart way to get there – and if Fleury can’t figure out how to be better in net, that Cup win in ’09 is going to mean squat going forward.

  3. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    Screw Discoball. Wasted 4 years of Crosby and Malkin. He only gets a break in 2011…but then again they blew a 3-1 lead to Tampa. So no excuse.

  4. vancouversportsbro - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:51 PM

    I think it was time for Bylsma to go. However, Mike Johnston is an extremely risky hire. Every year he doesn’t get to the cup finals it’s considered a bust. And the guy has no NHL head coaching experience. A good junior coaching track record, but who knows how that translates?

    • bolthead2589 - Aug 23, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      Look no further than Jon cooper down in tampa. He turned that team around 180 degrees in his rookie coaching season. Sometimes the players need a new coach. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

  5. Eutaw's Finest - Aug 23, 2014 at 12:55 AM

    I’m shocked there’s no “the Capitals aren’t at the same level as the Pens and they are not rivals whatsoever,” comments.

    • stixzidinia - Aug 23, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      They aren’t rivals. Any “rivalry” was a product of either:

      1) a media creation with regard to the “Sid vs Ovie” thing, or

      2) A result of years worth of Caps playoff defeats at the hands of the Pens. It was a one sided rivalry.

  6. penguins87and71 - Aug 23, 2014 at 1:04 AM

    I though Dan Byslma was a okay head coach, I think what got him fired was that the atmosphere in the locker room was to much like a country club then a NHL team. The players took no responsibility for their play. He also wouldn’t change his coaching style once the teams figured it out. He was a great regular season head coach, but a terrible postseason head coach, and that’s what eventually ended up in his demise. When Ray Shero was fired, I didn’t like it. I have come to realize that he drove this franchise into the ground, he traded away all of their forward prospects for aging players at the trade deadline, he also strapped the Penguins down to big contracts that they basically can’t get out of because of the no trade contracts. I liked the Mike Johnston hire, I think he is the right man for the job, and I think he will be successful. I hated the Jim Rutherford hire, I think they could have found someone better.

    • hockeyfan1701 - Aug 23, 2014 at 7:39 AM

      Well said

    • rippit2000 - Aug 23, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      You’re mostly right except for the comment that Shero traded away all of their forward prospects. They didn’t HAVE any forward prospects to trade away (unless you consider Jeffrey or Letestu to be prospects, which I don’t) because he was too busy drafting defensemen, who were then either traded away (for Iginla, Neal, etc.) or are currently languishing behind stiffs like Scuderi. The Pens need to see what their kids can do in the NHL so they know what they have. Despres is a great example – what exactly is he? No one knows because every time he made a mistake Bylsma would bench him or send him down for a long stretch. You can’t handle a young player that way – you need to put him in the lineup for 20-25 games and let him make mistakes, which he will. All young defensemen do. It may cost them a couple of games, but so what? The East is week and the Pens are a lock for the playoffs. Seeding doesn’t matter in the playoffs, which was proven again in 2013-14.

      Pouliot, Despres, Bortuzzo, Dumoulin and maybe Harrington are all ready to play in the NHL, but there’s only one open spot on the blue line. Letang, Maatta (when he recovers from his surgery), Ehrhoff, Martin and Scuderi are all locks to be in the lineup. If they keep all these young D in the AHL or juniors it’s going to stifle their progress. They need to make a trade, and Martin is the logical one to go. He’s been fantastic the past couple of seasons, but he’s 33, a pending UFA and makes $5 million a year. I’d love to see them get rid of Scuds but no GM in their right mind will take that contract.

  7. georgejarkko - Aug 23, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    I think he’ll be an excellent TV analyst between coaching jobs.

  8. stixzidinia - Aug 23, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    DIsregard anything written by Rob Rossi. He’s by far the worst thing going in Pittsburgh sports journalism. He was butt buddies with Shero and Bylsma and reacted with all the bitterness of a scorned lover in the aftermath of their firing. He went and did a ton of interviews with other media from around the country and Canada ripping the Pens and spouting a bunch of sensationalist crap that he was never able to back up. He burned all his his bridges with the Pens and no longer has any relationship with the team at all.

    The guy spend 4 hours with Bylsma and couldn’t produce more than a few vanilla quotes. And he’s bitter that after all his whining about the GM hiring, Rutherford came in and hit a home run rebuilding the depth of the team. What was a 2 line team last year is once again a 4 line team for the first time in 5 years. And the one time they did have depth, 2 seasons ago with the trade deadline acquisitions, Bylsma woefully mismanaged it playing Iginla on his offwing and had him shufling all over the place because he didn’t have the stones to break up Crosby/Dupuis. And he got a good coach in Mike Johnston, who’s Hockey Plays and Strategies book is a great window into what Pens fans can expect. No more “get to our game” or “make them play Penguins hockey”. Now the team will have actual game plans that are tailored to the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and to those of the opposition.

    • rippit2000 - Aug 25, 2014 at 9:07 AM

      I could not agree more with this post. Whoever gave this a thumbs down has obviously not watched the Pens in the playoffs for the past 5 years and has never read a Rob Rossi column.

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