Sunday, February 15, 2009

Goodbye Therrien, Hello Bylsma

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Pens fired Head Coach Michel Therrien just a few short hours ago and replaced him on an interim basis with Wilkes-Barre Scranton Head Coach Dan Bylsma. Given the Pens freefall out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and following the embarassing thrashing at the hands of the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs last night, this move should not be surprising to anyone.

I’ve heard many people make many arguments that Therrien is not the problem with this team. That the issues go much, much deeper than just the head coach. I think there is certainly some truth to that, but there’s also no disputing that Therrien’s effectiveness had been reduced to zilch. He had run his course with this team and his tough tactics just weren’t having the same kind of positive effect they were having a season ago when the Pens gelled at the right time and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup.

There were a number of issues with this squad, no question about it. Among them, a lack of toughness in front of the net, injuries to top players all over the board, a lack of a proven quarterback on the power play and issues finding adequate playmakers to set up alongside the two super-duper-star centers. But a good coach doing a good job makes the playoffs 100 times out of 100 with this kind of talent.

One of the biggest qualms I’ve had with Therrien is his lack of a defined system in just about any facet of the game. Being at the Pens-Sharks game the other night gave me a new feel for just how much of an impact an effective system can have. Sure the Pens won that game, but the Sharks were unquestionably the better overall squad and probably win that game 7 times out of 10 if they play again.

Therrien also has had a notoriously treachorous doghouse that has buried more than a few players over the past couple seasons. That kind of behavior is fine and dandy when the team is regularly putting up the W’s. But when the losses start mounting, these traits lead to all sorts of second-guessing and unhappy relations with the players, management and even fans.
What does surprise me a little is that Andre Savard appears to also have taken some of the fall for this and yet Mike Yeo still has his same job. Savard has been “re-assigned” which is like saying they didn’t think he was doing a good job but don’t want to lose him so they’ll turn him into a scout or something for the rest of the season before he either leaves or takes a big official demotion this offseason. If I’m not mistaken, though, Yeo is the one who is in charge of the Power Play, and that unit has been unacceptably bad this season. I don’t care if you have Bob Barker, Jessica Simpson and Rico Fata in the lineup, any unit with Sid and Geno on the ice together should be wildly effective, and there’s no possible reason for it not to be. Completely and totally unacceptable and I cannot figure any reason for Yeo to still have a job. If anything I thought he should have been fired or “reassigned” weeks or months ago.

Lastly, let’s look at the new coach, Dan Bylsma. He was given the always cautious and full-of-skepticism “interim” tag. What this figures to equate to is that Ray Shero is giving Bylsma a 25 game tryout. If he gets the Pens into the playoffs he likely is named the full-time permanent head coach of the Pens. If he doesn’t, it follows that Shero will probably either dismiss him or “reassign” him and go out and hire the long-rumored “Shero’s guy” that we thought he might get a couple seasons ago when he was first hired. To his credit, Bylsma has done a bang-up job for the Baby Pens. They are in second place in the AHL’s East Division with 73 points in 54 games and are just 1 point behind first place Hershey. And this is despite the fact that Wilkes-Barre has very little in the way of promising NHL prospects and is mainly filled with the stereotypical “AAAA” players, guys who are solid in the minors but just aren’t big league quality. Basically, with only a few notable exceptions like Go-go, Luca Caputi and Dustin Jeffrey, it’s a team of John VanBenschotens.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Yeah I'd agree about Bylsma being nothing more than a tryout type. I'm also with you in that I think Yeo, not Savard should have taken the fall, too. Wasn't Savard considered a pretty good coaching prospect? If I rememeber he interview for some other jobs this past offseason.

I'm not sure if I can give Bylsma a ton of credit for WBS, though, because like you said none of those guys are star prospect types. He can win with experienced stiffs who know how to play in the AHL, but what about when he has the Pens talent? Should be interesting