Penguins Update: A Requiem for Dan and Ray – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: A Requiem for Dan and Ray

Somewhere Craig Patrick must be smiling. Not an arrogant, misery-loves-company smile. More of a rueful, knowing grin.

Aside from Mario Lemieux, no one did more to save the Pittsburgh Penguins than Patrick. He literally dragged the franchise from the gutter of mediocrity in the early 1990s and willed it onto a championship course. However, following several down years the Hall-of-Fame executive was unceremoniously axed in 2006.

Such is the nature of sport. What have you done for me lately? Or, as the old saying goes, coaches (and GMs) are hired to be fired.

pp0488And so it was with Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero, hands-down the most successful coach/GM tandem in franchise history. Following five consecutive playoff exits at the hands of lower seeds, they were fired by Penguins CEO and president David Morehouse. Bylsma’s dismissal was particularly cruel—he was left hanging by a thread for several weeks before receiving the pink slip.

I can’t help but feel for them. Both are good men. They represented the team—and our city—with dignity and class. They won. Under Shero’s watch, the Pens enjoyed their finest eight-season run ever. Bylsma reached 250 victories faster than any coach in NHL history. In the end it wasn’t enough to make up for the crushing postseason defeats.

Dan and Ray by the Numbers

Regular Season


Bylsma 252 117 32 536 .668 43 35 .551
Shero 373 193 56 802 .645 58 45 .563

I’m not saying they were perfect. Shero was exceedingly loyal to his players and staff, a trait that manifested in the stupefying long-term deal he struck with shopworn Rob Scuderi—one that ultimately may have cost him his job. Bylsma’s single-minded approach and dogged devotion to a puck-retrieval system hasn’t played as well since obstruction began creeping back into the game.

There are far worse flaws to have as human beings.

When all is said and done, I hope they’ll be remembered for the enormous contributions they made to the team and our community. Thank you, Dan and Ray, for giving so much of yourselves and for helping to provide so many great hockey memories. It’s safe to say the Pens wouldn’t have won the Cup in 2009 without you.

Here’s hoping you both land on your feet—and soon.

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  1. June 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick, as a long time Penguins fan I really hope this is not a bad move. You say 5 losses at the hands of lower seeds, the Pens in five years never played an upper seed team, I think a year or two in there it wasn’t even a possibility unless they made the finals.

    I watched Pitt fooball for years and they decided that Walt Harris couldn’t take them to the next level. They brought in Wannstadt. The team has been in a downward spiral ever since.

    I don’t have a problem letting go of Shero, but we did not make an upgrade. If anything, maybe the Pens brought in a puppet and the owners may be pulling his strings. My guess is that Laviolette will be coach here next season.

    I hope the Pens make the playoffs next year.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 9, 2014 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      To be named Executive of the Year and then fired less than 12 months later—the Pens’ ownership had Shero on an extremely short leash. I know he didn’t do his best work in 2013-14, but I would’ve given him another year to try and straighten things out.

      Obviously Mario and Burkle didn’t feel that way. They must’ve been alarmed to pull the trigger so quickly. Probably a combination of too much money tied up in 30-something players and too few forward prospects in the pipeline. I have no insight into the way hockey decisions were made, but I wonder if they had issues with Shero in that regard as well.

      One certainly gets the feeling that Rutherford was brought in to overhaul the organizational structure and decision-making process. Certainly Mario and Co. like his mentoring skills. Plus, with Rutherford here on a short-term basis, it’ll make it easier to transition to Botterill, Fitzgerald or Guerin down the road.

      I do think it was time for a coaching change. I don’t think the Pens were ever going to get over the hump with Bylsma behind the bench. Somewhere after the Olympic break I got the sense the players were tuning him out. Once that happens, a coach has to go.

      In an odd way, I think winning the Cup in his first year stunted his development as a coach. Instead of learning to make adjustments, it reinforced a “we’re going to make other teams adjust to us” kind of arrogance.

      After the Philly fiasco in 2012, I think Bylsma made a conscious effort to do a better job in that area. He even flirted with a left-wing lock at various times last season—something he would never have done his first few years. But by then the playoff disappointments had started to pile up like so much excess baggage.

      I don’t know who the Pens are going to get to replace him. I’ve heard Baby Pens coach John Hynes is a stronger candidate than most people think. Plus, he’s familiar with the young guys in the organization. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

      I’m sure we’ll still be a playoff team next season. I don’t know if we’ll be a Cup contender. Actually, if Rutherford does things the right way, it might mean enduring a couple of down years (like Chicago did) to rebuild and retool.


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