October 28, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Time for Pittsburgh to Let Head Coach Dan Bylsma Go


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.

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  • Pivot

    Bylsma employs a perfect North/South game for a bunch of offensively skilled team. He plays a 2 way game with a
    2-1-2 forecheck. Very similar to the way Tortarella had the Rangers playing. In the defensive zone the Penguins use the same “Low Zone Collapse” the NY media said stifles offense. Seamed to work pretty good in Pitt. Anyway the man at fault is Shero for neglecting his defense for the last 3 or 4 playoffs. He loads up on top 6 forwards to add to the top 9. Iginla didn’t belong on the 3rd line in Pittsburgh. Bylsma should stay and Shero should find a new job.

    • lookout

      Seriously, we were beat by a, may I say, SUPERIOR Goal-Tender. If Fleury can make simple positional saves (Vokoun), are we having this discussion? It’s amazing when you watch the players respond to soft goals, it’s as if somebody let the air out of the balloon. We should be discussing why Fleury is still in a Penguins uniform, after 4 years of flopping around. Hate to lose Bylsma, because of a coach killer like Fleury.

      To finish, is Fleury this bad in practice too? Would make sence that they take poor shots, if they continuously score with those same shots during practice! Just Saying.

      • OVP66223

        You switch Fleury and Lundquist, do you think the Pens win the series given the fact the 5 players on the ice were routinely out-hustled and the Rangers got more quality looks from 10′ in while the Penguins took 80% of their shots from 25′ and out?

        Sorry, Lundquist IS the better goalie, no one would argue that, but the effort of the teams in front of them was the difference. Fleury played more than good enough to win had his team defense not failed him a half dozen times each game.

      • OVP66223

        and I don’t recall a superior goalie beating us when we made cup runs 5 years ago? I also don’t recall Hasek or Roy ore anyone beating us back when Lemieux, Jagr, Coffey, Francis and Co were cake-walking to the Cup titles. They won because the whole team was much better than the top-heavy Penguins of today. They would easily be scoring 4 or 5 goals against Lundquist because they had several good scoring lines and scoring D-men. This team looks like a non-playoff team without Crosby and Malkin and you wouldn’t say that without Lemieux and Francis. Oh, they’d have been a lower seed, sure, but they’d still be formidable. This team was so bad in depth and role players and 3rd and 4th lines (apologies to Sutter who played hard), that they’d be vying for worst record in the league.

    • OVP66223

      We were beat by poor offensive showing and a group of forwards that didn’t handle assignments in their own zone. The D-men were adequate and not the problem, it was the forwards that failed on both ends.

      • Pivot

        The Ranger forwards were pretty good that series but with all the skill the Penguins have. They still had chances. The solid defense bailed them out on many occasions. There were rebounds with open nets but the forward was defended (tied up his stick) by a Ranger defenseman to prevent a goal. Hank is a great goalie but without real good Dmen, the Penguins can score 3 goals in 3 mins or less.
        Maybe they should stop looking at the goalie in Pittsburgh and look at all the Ranger goals scored 1 on 1 with Fleury. The defense can win you a 2-1 game. Besides for a change Fleury played in every Pittsburg Playoff game so he did something right.

        • OVP66223

          I know what you are saying by chances, but how many QUALITY chances did we get? Way to many weak wrist shots from beyond the circles with little congestion in front of the net. That won’t cut it against the worst of goalies. Yes, the Rangers defense (and forward back checking) had a lot to do with forcing outside shots, but the Penguins never found a method to get more point-blank opportunities. Any defense or plan has a weakness, you have to exploit that weakness. Maybe long passes, maybe side to side passes, maybe STOP passing and shoot from the wings and play the rebounds, who knows, but whatever it was, the Penguins team played right into what the Rangers were doing.

          The chances we got were pathetic. Rarely did we get a quality chance, maybe 3 or 4 a game out of 30+ shots.

  • DashingDave314

    As a Washington Capitals fan, I’d absolutely love it if the Penguins fired Dan Bylsma. Is it his fault that Crosby got cold, he had to face a very hot goalie in King Henrik, and salary cap concerns left him without a strong bottom 6 group of forwards? Shero should be fired before Bylsma.

    If Bylsma is fired, I hope he either goes to the Capitals or somewhere in the Western Conference so that he and Laviolette can continue their feud.

    • OVP66223

      Shero is more to blame for such a lacking roster and poor role players that added nothing to the effort. Crosby and Malkin were push around quite a bit, but they will never be tough enough to put a stop to that, so you have work within that confine as a GM and get some size, grit and temper around them.

      Byslma obviously failed to push the right buttons in the playoffs…for many years now. He is not the answer, even if he isn’t the root problem. It is time to move on. I have no fear letting Bylsma walk. He is okay coach, but hardly one to turn around a team into a dominating team. If you think that, you aren’t paying attention to the results of the Pens.

      • DashingDave314

        I strongly agree about Shero. The Penguins bottom six forwards have been consistently weak. That’s not Dan’s fault, that falls on Shero for failing to acquire the right guys. In the playoffs, you need 4 reliable lines to win. The past two seasons, the Penguins have only had 2 each season. And not only did Shero get the wrong guys, he gave up a lot to get them.

        We can agree to disagree about Danny. I’d fire Shero and let the next GM do what he wants with Bylsma. The Penguins have been a dominating team ever since Dan took over. Unless the Penguins can get Mike Babcock or Trotz, I’m not seeing any head coaches out there who would be upgrades.

        Trust me, you don’t want the Penguins to overreact and fire the head coach. The Capitals did that when they fired Bruce. At first it seemed like the right decision, but now I (and I’m willing to bet most Capitals fans) wish that they could take it back.

        • OVP66223

          Well, I do think start with Shero and let the new GM make a decision. I can live with that. Also, no matter how it is portrayed in public, the ownership should speak privately with Crosby and several other Penguins players they feel will speak honestly about what they players think went wrong. That might be on Byslma, maybe it is on a couple of rotten apple players that never took the game seriously, who knows.

          I do hope SOME changes are made, at the very least a couple of new forwards, with one or two having a nasty disposition. We don’t need head hunting, penalty-taking morons, but some toughness and fear instilled in the opponents would go a long way to helping out skilled players like Malkin and Crosby.

  • J holobinko

    Shero, Bylsma and Crosby should go! I tired of hearing about Crosby being the best in the world! By far he is not! Crosby has no heart and needs to go ! They can get great vale in return so get rid of him now!

  • DashingDave314

    Hey Johnny, Dave from Stars and Sticks. I’m doing a season ending article for each of the Washington Capitals’ divisional rivals and would like your input on a few things. Email me when you get the chance: davestevenson2009 at gmail dot com. Thanks!