In March when Penguins coach Dan Bylsma had the Penguins rocking out a 12 game winning streak, you would have thought Christmas came early. Penguins GM Ray Shero started to bring in 4 new seasoned veterans to add to the Penguins already rich lineup. The Penguins brought in leadership, grit, skill & experience. Everything a coach could possibly want.
As soon as the Penguins team got healthy towards the close of the regular season a few noticeable problems started to arise. The biggest problem was where to fit in Jarome Iginla. It was always assumed he would fit in on Crosby’s line, but that would mean removal of Chris Kunitz or Pascal Dupuis. If the Penguins put Kunitz on Malkins line Dupuis would have to be moved to the opposite side. A Dupuis that has had more regular strength goals than Iginla over the past few seasons, even with Crosby out of the lineup.
The odd guy out ended up being rookie Beau Bennett on Malkin’s line. As it turns out, Iginla 3 years removed from the Olympics, 3 years not going to the post season, 3 years further into the twilight of his career didn’t have what it takes to remove Neal or Dupuis from their respected winger positions.
Bylsma is known for his fast attack style of play. Four games into the Islanders series when the Islanders managed to tie it up, Bylsma made his first couple moves. He changed the goaltender and he brought back his speed. The speed duo of Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale were finally back on the ice together for the Penguins. When Kennedy and Vitale were both playing for the Penguins, the team was 4-0. They won the last two games of the Islanders series then the first two of the Senators series. Then they were split up again. The Pens lost.
Fact: Without the speed duo on the ice the Pens were 4-7 in the playoffs.
Coach Bylsma had just received the gift of 4 quality veteran players, and his gift didn’t fit correctly. Unlike easily returning an incorrectly fitting shirt to the store, if Bylsma didn’t wear this shirt the media would have a field day. They would wonder if Shero even talked to Bylsma before trading for these guys. Simply put, if Bylsma sat the majority of them it would make his boss look bad. One fifth of the team was now slower, older players, three of which had not been in the playoffs in over 3 years.
So, Does Bylsma show up the guy who has the ability to fire him by sitting a couple of these “great” acquisitions or does he try to make due so as not to get fired for making the GM of the year candidate look bad?
At Ray Shero’s press conference on Wednesday he said he would like a couple of “do-overs”. I personally was 100% all for the acquisitions, looking back I wouldn’t be. Hind sight is always 20/20. Three out of the 4 guys brought in by Shero are UFA’s at the end of this season. The only one worth it to re-sign is the only one of them that showed heart, Brandon Morrow.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma recently received a 2 year contract extension, which means he is slated to be the Penguins coach for 3 more years.
I have been reading extremely ignorant posts all over the internet from extremely ignorant fans and I feel I must clarify some false information that has been posted. Starting with my favorite piece of garbage “it was Michel Therrien’s team that won the Cup in 2009 not Bylsma’s”
In the 2008-2009 season Therrien had driven the Penguins so far wrong that by the time he was fired the Penguins needed to win 72% or 18 of the next 25 games the rest of the season to make the playoffs. For those keeping track, the Penguins best season ever when they had 119 pts they only had a 66% win clip. Snopes-ing another stupid rumor, the Penguins were not playing injured when Therrien got fired, Malkin played 82 games, Staal 82 games and Crosby 77 games. Healthier than any time since. The team had quit playing for Therrien, most likely because of his rants ripping on the players to the public. If Dan Bylsma didn’t come in and coach the team, there was about a 0% chance of the Penguins reaching the playoffs.
Yes, part of winning the Stanley Cup, Dan Bylsma does owe thanks to help from Michel Therrien. At the same time, Bylsma also owes thanks for being able to win the Cup to his third grade math teacher.
Dan Bylsma coached and won the Stanley Cup, not Therrien. Therrien has never won a Stanley Cup, ever. There is no place on the Cup for coaches who got fired before another coach took over and won.
Another problem I have is all the talk about the 3 quick exits from the playoffs. Did anyone actually follow the Penguins the last three years?
1. The second round exit to the Montreal Canadiens was attributed to the Penguins being tired because of the previous two long seasons. Maybe, maybe not. They did go to seven games with the Habs. It’s been 30 years since a team has played in 3 Stanley Cup finals in a row, not an excuse, just a fact. The game is harder and faster than it used to be.
2. First round exit to Tampa Bay. Malkin and Crosby were both out for the season, Penguins were led by newly acquired James Neal and his 0 games playoff experience. Taking Tampa to 7 games with that decimated of a team was amazing. Disappointment? Hardly.
3. First round exit Philly. This loss can squarely be placed on the goaltenders shoulders. Philadelphia knew that it was easy to score high glove side on Fleury and abused him. The Penguins did not have a suitable backup goalie. Crosby in his 20 game return from concussion was also no where near 100%.
Simply put, if you are going after the Penguins coach at least get your facts right. Six out the 10 people I asked who they would replace Bylsma with after they had him fired couldn’t even name another coach in the NHL, the other four didn’t have an answer.
The Two Reasons Why The Penguins Lost to the Bruins.
1. Defense A&B
A. The Penguins do not have a player on defense that can shoot the puck. This is their biggest problem area. Our supposed “Norris” trophy candidate and player helming the Penguins powerplay, Kris Letang cannot take a slapshot that can hit the net. Paul Martin scored more goals during the regular season. The Bruins were able to clog up their end in front of the net because there was no need to cover the points. This forced the Pens forards to shoot from bad angles, and allowed the teams to double cover Crosby and Malkin. Letang could only score if he skated in deep and took a wrist shot, but this led to odd man breaks.
B. The defense played soft. By not challenging the Bruins at the blue line, the Penguins allowed the Bruins to skate in to the top of the circles allowing for hard shots and easy rebounds. The over whelming majority of the goals scored by the Bruins were on the initial break into the Penguins end.
2. Lack of Physical Play
The Penguins needed to play a physical game against the Bruins. Remember back when beating the Bruins was a simple game plan as checking Chara non stop to wear him down? Toronto took it to the Bruins physically and came that close to beating them.
A few players of note that had looked lost in the series:
- Crank- Shaft Murray, played with the physicality of a marshmallow in a chocolate fountain.
- Jussi Jokinen was soft and useless on the third or fourth line, he may find use on the first or second line this upcoming season if Dupuis cannot be signed.
- Brandon Sutter had numerous chances to throw punishing checks. He was perfectly set up for a check that would have cleaned Jaromir Jagr’s clock minutes before Jagr hooked Malkin in overtime, he opted not to check. So far he is a complete disgrace to the Sutter name.
- As for the big trade deadline pickup Jarome Iginla. He made one diving “too little too late” effort at the end of game four after showing zero, zilch, nothing, no heart the rest of the entire Boston series. Iginla played exactly like a guy that captained his Flames team to the second round of the playoffs zero times in seven years.
About Bylsma’s Marc-André Fleury comment. “Marc-Andre Fleury is a guy who’s gonna come back to our team and he’s gonna be the number one goalie. And he’s gonna be our franchise goalie”
The Penguins have a lot of money tied up in Fleury. Yes, they can pay him off to the tune of 7 some million dollars and ditch the cap money. The millions of dollars doesn’t grow on trees though. The above comment does a few things. It gives Fleury confidence and at the same time it ups his trade value. It’s smart business, don’t read too much into it.
The Pens are going to try out a new goaltender coach, something I’ve been saying for years. All Fleury has had since he came to the Penguins is the old washed up part time Gilles Meloche. Who knows, maybe it will work.
About signing Kris Letang. The Penguins have all of the options on the table and Kris Letang is waiting to hear whether or not he won the Norris Trophy this Saturday before he negotiates.
The Pens chances of signing Letang are about 15%. Letang will want 6.5 to 7 million which is a laugher, Shero will offer about 5 mil over several years to get cap amount down. Shero will be fielding offers for him from Sunday until 9 months from now. Letang doesn’t have a no trade clause or restrictions.
Erik Karlsson only makes 6.5 mil and only 4 other defensemen make 7 mil or over. This means on the open market Letang could generate offers of 6-7 mil.
The best trade would be with Montreal up by where Letang just built a house. They have a plethora of defensemen that are free agents coming up, two that can shoot the puck. The Penguins only need one. They have one guy that could fill both the need for a shooter and Murray’s role. He is a Restricted Free Agent but I dare not mention his name because I can’t stand the guy.
Despres full time could easily fill the net as much as Letang and doesn’t seem to make as many mistakes. Trading Letang’s salary would pave the way for Dupuis money.
Evgeni Malkin has rightfully been signed to 8 year contract extension. Next year when the Olympics roll around and your watching Crosby Captain Canada’s squad, Malkin Captain Russia’s squad and Bylsma coaching the USA squad try being proud of your team rather than just blurting out to fire and trade everyone.
Ray Shero also said at his press conference that with great expectations comes great disappointment. Take a step back and look without your expectation goggles. The Penguins were one of the final four teams this year and they lost to a team who had just won a Cup two years ago. It’s really not that bad.
I’ve never said this about any other season, but I have a really good feeling about next year. Let’s Go Pens!