by PuckStopsHere on 02/16/09 at 04:25 AM ET
The Pittsburgh Penguins were Stanley Cup finalists in 2008. Though they didn’t win the cup, many people picked them as a team that had a good chance to win the cup in the future. However, this season has not worked out according to that plan. Defensive injuries to Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney left the Penguins defensively vulnerable. Even with the league’s top scorer in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who is in third place, the Penguins have not succeeded. The Pens have a 27-30 record (with five losses counted as regulation ties). They are currently in tenth place in the East Conference. They are five points out of the playoffs.
Something had to be done to try to change their fortunes. The easiest something is usually to change the coach. That was the Penguins choice. Michel Therrien has been fired. This is his fourth year as Pens coach and although he has had a relatively successful winning record; it is the team’s talent level that gets most of the credit. Therrien has never seemed like a top coach. It seemed more like a case of a good young team that was ready to make a big leap forward when he joined the team.
Using the often wrong but very common method to pick the coach of the most improved team as coach of the year, Therrien was a coach of the year nominee in 2007. This is example shows the folly of those kinds of coach of the year votes.
Replacing Therrien as coach of the Penguins is Dan Bylsma. He has been the AHL head coach for the Penguins affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season. The W-B/S Penguins are a good team, but they have been a good team long before the start of Bylsma’s coaching reign. That is his only head coaching experience in his life, although he has a few years of AHL assistant coaching experience and was a New York Islanders assistant in the NHL in 2005/06. He has a pretty short track record for an NHL coach. Is he a good enough coach to make the difference and bring the Penguins to the playoffs? I am skeptical.
Pittsburgh is a team with high expectations this season. They have not lived up to those expectations. They have fired the coach in an effort to shake things up and hopefully make playoffs. Tough they have frontline talent; it should be a hard road to the playoffs. Their relatively inexperienced head coach is likely not an asset in that race.
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