Nov 21, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; New York Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson watches his team warm up before the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Rangers defeated the Stars 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Pens Turning their Attention to Ulf Samuelsson for Coach?

The past two months have been a complete nightmare for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Suffering their fifth consecutive playoff ouster to a lower seed resulted in the axing of both Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero, and now, they’ve been shunned by an American Hockey League (AHL) coach to join their staff (Willie Desjardins).

Pittsburgh’s coaching expedition has turned into a game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ And general manager Jim Rutherford is back to the drawing board.

Let’s take a look at the candidates that have reportedly been interviewed so far – per Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes
  • New York Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson
  • Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Bill Peters
  • Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Tom Renney
  • Former head coach Marc Crawford
  • Former head coach Ron Wilson
  • Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins
  • Sportscaster and former head coach Doug MacLean

Peters took the Carolina Hurricanes’ head coaching vacancy, and Desjardins is expected to be announced as the Vancouver Canucks’ coach; so, they’re out. Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s own Rob Rossi that two or three more names that weren’t interviewed at the time will be included when he runs through the list again.

However, if you’re sifting through the six-out-of-eight names above that are still out their to hire, I don’t see how Samuelsson isn’t leading the pack.

Samuelsson, a former Penguins’ great, obviously has familiarity with Pittsburgh, and is coming off a season where he played a part in helping the Rangers reach the Cup finals. Personally, if we’re selecting out of the six in the original candidacy, I’d prefer Samuelsson over the rest.

Renney has never gotten past the semifinals in the playoffs as head coach; Crawford won the Cup in 1996, but hasn’t made the postseason in his last four seasons as coach; Wilson has missed the playoffs three straight times before he was canned in 2012; MacLean hasn’t coached since 2004; and Hynes has never coached at the NHL level.

At least with Samuelsson, you know who he is, and you recognize he’s had success as an assistant coach. Also, he has a clean slate when it comes to head coaching because he’s never been in the position. And no, it doesn’t contradict my statement of Hynes, because Samuelsson’s been in the NHL.

Now, of course, we don’t know who those other two/three candidates Rutherford is referring to, so, by all means, they could be a better fit than Samuelsson. But in judging the believed choices, Samuelsson is probably their best match.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review would probably agree with me. Check out his article on why Samuelsson would be a great fit with Pittsburgh – here. And TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger is speculating/guessing Pittsburgh leans towards Samuelsson.

Let’s see if Rutherford feels the same.

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