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Bylsma’s System:  It’s Not For Everyone

Yesterday’s announcement of a three-year contract extension for Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma is certainly well-deserved.

After all, immediately upon his hiring in Feb. 2009 he led the Pens in a furious rally into the Eastern Conference playoffs, coming at a time when there was a legitimate concern that the defending Eastern Conference champions would even make the playoffs.  That culminated of course with the Penguins hoisting the Stanley Cup that June.

However he’s arguably done his best coaching this season, with his roster depleted of its star players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin due to injury.  Bylsma not only has the Penguins competing, he now has them playing at an intensity that not many other Eastern Conference teams would like to face as their opponent in the playoffs.

But one thing’s for sure in the two years Bylsma’s been behind the Penguins’ bench:  Not just any ‘ol NHL player can flourish in his system.

There are a few prerequisites that should be posted somewhere for prospective players to heed if they want to succeed in HCDB’s system:

- You had better be fairly fast.  There are some exceptions, but not very many.

- You had better be willing to hit.  No drive-by forechecks.

- You had better be willing to work your tail off.

And if you don’t have all three?  Well, your time in HCDB’s system may not be as long as you may think it is.

There have been several examples of very established NHL players that just couldn’t cut the Bylsma mustard:

- Petr Sykora - Veteran sniper, scored one of the bigger playoff goals in Penguins history in triple overtime in Game 5 of the ‘08 Stanley Cup Finals.  Seemed to have nice chemistry with Evgeni Malkin.  But Petr is not the fastest guy in the world and his size doesn’t help him in the physical aspects of hockey.  So he was not retained after the ‘09 Cup-winning season, where he was a healthy scratch for the majority of the playoffs.

- Miro Satan - Another 300 goal scorer (363 to be exact).  Scored 17 goals in his one season with the Pens, and had a couple of excellent playoff games.  But Satan was not a very good checker.  At all.

- Ruslan Fedotenko - Feds was pretty close to a match in HCDB’s system.  He could play the physical game at times.  Didn’t have much speed, though.

- Alexei Ponikarovsky - Never really fit into the system in his short stay with the Penguins.  Didn’t contribute to the offense very much, wasn’t very fast at all and despite his size wasn’t that physical.

So are there current Penguins in the system that may eventually fall prey to Bylsma’s system?

I’m gonna throw one name out there as a remote possibility, and some Penguins fans won’t be happy with me saying it:  Eric Tangradi?

Eric is still quite young, he just turned 21, so he has plenty of time to improve.  But in the early stages of his Pens career, while he’s definitely a physical player, it’s apparent that he needs to improve his skating.  I’m not making any sort of prediction at all, so relax, just an observation.

Bylsma’s system has served him well so far, now with his contract extension, we’ll see how well it fares in the future.

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  Tags: nhl-hockey, pittsburgh+penguins

Comments

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I agree with your assessment of Tangradi, Tony. I don’t know what kind of long term plans we had for Comrie, regardless, but due to size and skating, I have my doubts about his ability in this system as well. Of course, if he scores like he did in preseason, HCDB will make some exceptions I think. (Same with Kovy, if he starts lighting them up.) That was the problem with Sykora. When he was scoring, he was fine. When he was slumping, there was very little else that was redeeming about his game.

Posted by penguinsfan on 03/10/11 at 02:14 PM ET

Russian Rocket's avatar

In almost any coaches system there are exceptions for guys who can put the puck in the net.  If Tangradi can be that physical force and find himself in front of the net often creating traffic and cashing in, he’ll force is way into a role the Penguins don’t really have on a regular basis.  If he tries to play a finesse game, he’ll find himself traded out of town.

Posted by Russian Rocket on 03/10/11 at 02:22 PM ET

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good points, Tony.  And why I doubted a Kovalev trade would happen—and maybe wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t reached absolute desperation level as far as having any goal-scorers.

Posted by Lex Talionis on 03/10/11 at 02:54 PM ET

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In the Islanders game that Tangradi got hurt in, he had been sent down beforehand, and that was his first game back. His first two shifts he absolutely demolished two defenseman on the forecheck (I suppose that’s why Gillies chose him).

Before that it seemed like when he made body contact, he was doing it just to show that he’s physical - he wasn’t following through, was sort of missing guys, there just wasn’t anything behind his hits. He plowed straight through those two Islanders.

He was on a mission to stay put, and I thought his skating had improved drastically from his earlier games, even earlier that week. From watching that, there’s really no good reason for him to lose opportunities because of his skating, he has the tools. So obviously it’s all up to him to get to that level and keep it there.

Posted by NathanBC on 03/10/11 at 02:57 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

I agree with you on Bylsma coaching with all the injuries has been great, But I wish he Shero & he would fall out of love love with Staal. He is never going to be anything more than a very good 3rd line C. And with Sid & Geno taking up 17.4 Million you can’t afford to have your 3rd Line C no Matter how good he is making 4 million


Also Agree with you on Tangradi he can not skate well enough to be effective in his system

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 03:12 PM ET

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I think we got our guy in Neal already as well.  I mean you can’t really come up with a better player for our system.  Our team thrives on those offensively skilled PFs and the winger situation definitely looks more promising with one of Neal/Tangradi to pair with Sid/Geno.  Honestly you can’t ask for better fits as far as their personal style and how it meshes with the team.

Posted by JBM on 03/10/11 at 03:25 PM ET

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Two thoughts:

1)  The Penguins play the same way in the AHL as they do in the NHL, and Eric was having success in the AHL.  So, if he fails in the NHL it won’t be because he can’t handle the system, it’ll be because he’s not cut out for it.

2)  Evilpens: I would like to see Staal as a second line center with Malkin on his wing for an entire season before I ship him out.  I’m sure a lot of GMs would be drooling if they found out he was available.

Posted by fueledbyjake on 03/10/11 at 03:50 PM ET

Tony's avatar

EP: Can we please have ONE article that we don’t read your same complaints about Staal ?

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 03/10/11 at 03:53 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Tony   grin  I am sorry I just think that Staal is a very good 3rd Line C, But that is all he will ever be & If Sid is healthy next season How Many goals is Neal going to put up? & then he is a RFA, He makes 2.8 Million now, You are really not going to afford the 3 C’s Model after next season.

I said Bylsma has done his best coaching so far this season. I think that is pretty positive don’t you Tony?

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 04:01 PM ET

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I agree with what you outlined as major characteristics to fit into HCDB’s system.  That being said, if your entire lineup is filled with guys like that, who also do not put the puck in the net, then you have a problem.  Guys like Crosby, who work their butt off and score are 1 in a million.  For every Crosby, you have guys like Talbot, Dupuis, Conner, and Kennedy.  With the exception of Kennedy lately, all these guys fit the 3 phases you mentioned, but go 20 games in a row before potting a goal. 

Once we enter the playoffs, i guess we will see how this system works without any superstars putting pucks in the net.  This really will allow us to compare a DB system to other great coaches without superstars like Ruff.

Also, on a side note: To me, the the perfect fit outside of the penguins organization for HCDB’s system is Parise in NJ.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 03/10/11 at 05:17 PM ET

Russian Rocket's avatar

Staal has shown he can score 20+ goals and if he can continue to do that and be a dominant defensive player, while playing on the 2nd line he won’t be going anywhere.  Remember he gets limited PP time when everyone is healthy and 3rd line minutes until this year so it’s hard to judge his offensive upside.  I think he’s an ideal 2nd line center (while being a perfect 3rd line center).

Posted by Russian Rocket on 03/10/11 at 06:32 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

ummmm what has he ever done that has shown he can be a ” great 2nd line C’?

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 06:39 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

And with Sid & Geno taking up 17.4 Million you can’t afford to have your 3rd Line C no Matter how good he is making 4 million

No matter how good, huh?  So if a certain 50 goal scorer that plays somewhere sunny and warm told his agent, “Hey…if Pittsburgh can give me $4 million, I’m signing there,” the Penguins would immediately and irrevocably fall to pieces?

In a word, bullshit.

Staal is pretty much the perfect fit for what the Penguins do.  On top of that, he’s the best PK guy in the league.

Maybe you need to fall out of hate with Staal.

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 03/10/11 at 12:53 PM ET

I think he has that comment saved to a Word document on his computer so it’s handy when he needs it…

Every…single…day.  smile

Parise in NJ.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 03/10/11 at 02:17 PM ET

Don’t get us all worked up, now, huh?

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 03/10/11 at 06:51 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Staal is pretty much the perfect fit for what the Penguins do.  On top of that, he’s the best PK guy in the league.Maybe you need to fall out of hate with Staal. 


1st & foremost I do not Hate Staal I said he is a Great 3rd Line C!! End of that BS !!

best penalty Killer in the League????????????????  The Pens were 1st in the League without Staal, How does that Happen?


& I don’t want to threadjack this Thread so I will stop cool hmm

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 06:55 PM ET

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”...and 3rd line minutes until this year so it’s hard to judge his offensive upside.  I think he’s an ideal 2nd line center (while being a perfect 3rd line center).
Posted by Russian Rocket on 03/10/11 at 03:32 PM ET

He’s had 1st & 2nd line minutes since after his rookie season:
He averaged 14:30, then 18:30, 19:20, 19:50, and 21:20 this season (give or take a few seconds).

His first four seasons he averaged .51ppg, and this season after 29 games he’s averaged .61ppg.

Disregard the above, to not understand the importance of Staal to this team, and to any team, is on par with being a twat-waffle.


best penalty Killer in the League????????????????  The Pens were 1st in the League without Staal, How does that Happen?
Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 03:55 PM ET
And they still are 1st. Please re-read what you wrote, is there any sense in those two sentences? And he is one of the best.

Posted by NathanBC on 03/10/11 at 07:27 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

The Pens were 1st in the League without Staal, How does that Happen?

Hard work?

If Staal isn’t the best PK’er in the league…tell me who is.  I know Kesler up in Vancouver is a good one, too…but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me he’s better than Staal.  Jordan should’ve won the Selke last year.

If they have to make the decision to move him in the future, so be it.  But it’s not happening right now and I don’t see it happening in the offseason, either.  Next year, if Neal plays up to the standards we all expect him to and Letestu/Jeffrey keep improving?  Who knows, then. 

I, like a couple of the other posters, am excited to see what he can do on the 2nd line with Geno.  He scored 29 goals the year they played together consistently.  You put them and Kunitz (or Neal) on a line together…it could turn out to be one of the best combos in the NHL.  Maybe he’ll put up 30 goals and 60 points - which is about what Vancouver is getting from Kesler.  Then, maybe, you’ll get off his case.

Also, you have to think that when they signed him to his $4 million contract, they had in mind a plan that would get him more ice time, making him worth his contract.  The move up to 2nd line center with Geno could be it.  Think positively for once, EP!  Life isn’t all dog turds and crying babies!

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 03/10/11 at 07:32 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Flash !Staal is No More a 2nd Line C than Geno is a Winger, Bylsma demoted Staal back to the 3rd before Geno had his Knee Blown out by Myers falling on it & Sid’s Concussions. And I would say that Bylsma is a pretty big Fan of Staal don’t ya think. I am positive, I loved the trade of Gogo For Neal & Niskanen, loved the Signings of Martin & Michalek, I can’t believe where they are at considering all the injuries

I am just not Lapping up the Pablum spewed out by the Pens & media in Pittsburgh, I would love for Staal to prove me wrong, But including this season every time he has been thrust into the 2nd line C role has has failed

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 08:47 PM ET

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First four seasons:
.51 points per game

This season:
.61 points per game

He’s also 22 years old.

He can’t be counted on right now as a scoring 1st line centre, but he’s also played with Cooke and Kennedy pretty much exclusively since his rookie year. Playing with skill has a different effect on a player than playing with 3rd liners. He can dominate physically. He doesn’t have a great shot, and his playmaking is poor. He’s 22 years old.


Bylsma demoted Staal back to the 3rd before Geno had his Knee Blown out by Myers falling on it & Sid’s Concussions.”
He did that because Malkin wasn’t cutting it as a winger, or as a Penguin in general. Those three played two games together.

Posted by NathanBC on 03/10/11 at 08:58 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Who the Hell has Malkin played with the Last 2 seasons? I just love it ,always someone else’s fault that Staal can’t be a top 2 line C. Now you are trying to blame Geno who won the Conn Smythe trophy.

How about all the times that Sid or Geno were hurt & he got to play with 1 of those guys wingers & failed.

Again the Staal Kool-Aid has Blinded you to the fact that I am saying Staal is a very good 3rd Line C he is just not anything more than that! Not saying he sucks or is incompetent just that he is what he is.

THIS IS THE END !

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 09:28 PM ET

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You are too blinded by your need for confrontation to ever consider someone else’s opinion or words, or to actually attempt to even understand anyone else’s point of view… unless Tony says something, then you start sniveling.

Posted by NathanBC on 03/10/11 at 09:42 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

Again the Staal Kool-Aid has Blinded you to the fact that I am saying Staal is a very good 3rd Line C he is just not anything more than that! Not saying he sucks or is incompetent just that he is what he is.

And we’re not saying that he’s the greatest center to ever step onto the ice.

Listen, comparing Staal to Malkin or Crosby is nuts.  Absolutely crazy.  And none of us are doing that.  Malkin can win an Art Ross and Conn Smyth Trophy because he’s an other-worldly talent.  Same with Sid.  Staal isn’t that kind of player.  Never has been.

But, if you want to go there, Malkin played with two 25-30 goal scorers his breakout year of 07-08 (Malone, Sykora) and with Sykora for the majority of his 113 point campaign in 08-09.

Sid, well…he’s just Sid.  The best player in the game is going to get his points, whether he’s assisting on Billy Guerin and Colby Armstrong goals or taking over and scoring himself.

Staal can’t do those things.  At least not yet.  Saying that he’ll never be anything more than an overpaid 3rd line center is extremely premature considering that he IS only 22 years old, like Nathan pointed out.

We’re not drinking Staal-flavored Kool-Aid (though I MIGHT if they made it), we’re just being a tad more realistic than you are…and a LOT less black and white.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 03/10/11 at 10:35 PM ET

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Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

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