Dan Bylsma

BY Jeff Schneberk

As it turned out, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero was prepared to ‘go to bat’ with team ownership which includes Mario Lemieux, in regards to keeping head coach Dan Bylsma on as head coach.

The good news for Shero was he didn’t have to go to bat.

As it went, Dan Bylsma seems to be as popular in Pittsburgh as Sidney Crosby is.

Shero met with owner Lemieux and Rob Burkle and was prepared to outline all the reasons to keep Bylsma around, who has a record of 201-92-25 since taking over as coach of the Penguins from Michel Therrien in February 2009.

So, a 4 game sweep that came rather easily at the hands of Boston, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed the services of head coach Dan Byslma to a 2-year extension through to 2016.

Going by wins by a head coach, Bylsma is the 2nd best coach in Pittsburgh Penguins history.

The season started and ended the way Bylsma wanted but it definitely did not end the way he or the team wanted. How do they explain being shutout in 2 of 4 games against a team that could barely beat the Leafs?

I don’t get it on first glance. Pittsburgh’s team is like a loaded shotgun compared to a Boston team that was that close to losing out in the first round of the playoffs.

For some reason, those big guns on Pittsburgh were shutdown completely against Boston and couldn’t get anything going, to the point they couldn’t score in 2 of those games.

On top of keeping the coach, Shero also opted to keep his staff on too, which includes Tony Granato. The reason to keep these guys around?

Pittsburgh won 15 straight games during the regular season.

Shero did load up at the trade deadline, acquiring forwards Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and defenceman Douglas Murray. With the exception of Jussi Jokinen, all will be unrestricted free agents in the summer.

Now, apparently their cheque books are bigger than they were before that crushing 1-0 loss in game 4 that night at TD Garden in Boston.

They emptied their pockets to re-sign Evgeni Malkin and that came after they opted to retain Bylsma for however long they signed him for.

In one way, Pittsburgh is in the same situation that the Toronto Maple Leafs are in. Both teams have coaches that are capable of winning (in the playoffs), however one of those 2 coaches are actually proven in their current market.  Nobody ever favoured the Leafs (except Kevin Weekes of Hockey Night in Canada) to win, but everybody favoured Pittsburgh to at least get past the first round. Point is, now both teams have coaches whom they should both feel comfortable  going forward with. Obviously, coach Bylsma has a lot more going in his favour, not the least of which is a Stanley Cup ring, but he’s also got 2 of the best attackers in the history of the game in Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

What Byslma  (and coach Randy Carlyle in Toronto) both have in common, is that they know their players. And they have coached them well. Pittsburgh fans know, going back to the years before Crosby and Malkin were drafted, that to put together a hockey team that has the strength and talent to go all the way and win the Cup, takes time and patience. Just ask Oiler fans, who are still guaranteed nothing even though they probably have one of the youngest teams they have ever iced.

Anyways, for a team like the Penguins, who have already won a Stanley Cup inside the past 5 years, to bow out the way they did, is tough for any fan to watch; however to dismiss the guy who has already brought them to the promised land once in the past 5 years, probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

Who wants to win the Cup this year anyway? It will forever be remembered as the ‘shortened season’ when all the players and owners spent half the season complaining about who makes what and who should get what. For more on the Stanley Cup playoffs, follow me on Twitter @Game7overtime.