After failing to close-out their second-round series against the New York Rangers, major alterations are in order for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And that includes firing head coach Dan Bylsma.
In fairness, you can’t place all the blame on him, as this was a total team collapse. However, after five consecutive seasons of playoff ousters to lower seeds, and just one Eastern Conference Finals appearance since their Cup win in 2009, somebody has to go. And it’s not going to be Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
But the thing that gets me is that Bylsma didn’t prepare his team well enough, nor did he instill discipline.
Seeing his squad commit unnecessary penalties and mouthing off to officials, Bylsma never really had control of his team – which is never a blueprint for success. This wasn’t just a one-time act though, because seemingly every year in which they were eliminated, Pittsburgh displayed an inability to harness emotions. Why didn’t Bylsma take action?
You’re the head coach; the whole point of leading your team is to push them in the right direction. Yet, from observing his body language behind the bench, in those “In The Room” episodes on the Pens’ website, and in every post-game interview, Bylsma let his team run the show – not him. He never put his foot down or had the guts to put these prima donnas in their place.
Now, of course, we don’t truly know if Bylsma did or did not say something to his players because we weren’t in the locker room/practice sessions. But when you’re team continues to make the same mistakes over-and-over, and you don’t make the proper adjustments, or put said player in time-out, what message are you sending your team? That you’re on your own? That the talent will overcome any roadblock, and there’s no need to step in?
I recognize that what you have on paper doesn’t win championships, but when a team has as much firepower as the Pens’ have, and they meltdown in the postseason like they recently have, it’s utterly perplexing. Especially since Pittsburgh has a good portion of the core players who rostered from the ’09 collective. Forget the fact Bylsma’s a Cup winner, Jack Adams’ recipient, and owns the franchise’s all-time wins record for a coach, he just isn’t right for the job anymore.
Obviously, the postseason chokes are a clear reason to axe Bylsma, but it became more evident he wasn’t the coach I thought he was during the Olympics. The game against Canada was hard-fought, but the tilt versus Finland really proved to be the outing I realized Bylsma was mediocre. It wasn’t because they lost, but rather how they did. Shelled 5-0, Team U.S.A. performed without any passion, and didn’t seem motivated. Bylsma just didn’t get them ready to compete.
And that’s the story of the Pittsburgh Penguins – they don’t want it bad enough.
Why did Bylsma fail to implement urgency? Their desire, heart, and persistence was embarrassing. Coming to play when you want to, or exerting energy as you please will bite you every time in the NHL Playoffs. Bylsma needed to put a stop to this sporadic effort, but he didn’t. The only move I saw Bylsma do is mix-and-match line combinations that never developed cohesive chemistry, and stand there with his arms crossed. That, and the fact he shaved his goatee.
This team has to have a coach willing to take charge with the amount of high-powered players Pittsburgh has. While I’m going to repeat what I said earlier, in that it’s not entirely Bylsma’s fault, it’s just time to make a statement and relieve him of his duties.
But Bylsma’s isn’t the only one who must depart.