Bylsma brings different approach to Pens
By Jonathan Bombulie
Published: Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009,
WILKES-BARRE — When winger Luca Caputi was called up to the Penguins earlier this month, he didn't know if the plan was to keep him in the NHL for a day or for a month.
He judged the coaching staff's satisfaction with his performance by the playing time he received in the following game.
Caputi didn't say whether he thought that was good or bad, right or wrong, but he did say he doesn't think it will happen again now that Dan Bylsma has been promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to be Michel Therrien's interim replacement.
"Dan is really good with communicating with his players," Caputi said after practice Monday morning. "If he sits you, he's going to tell you why. You're never left with uncertainty. You know what's going on at all times.
"I would say 80 percent of the time he's going to tell you, and if he doesn't tell you, he's very approachable. You can just go ask the question and he'll give you the answer. It's not like he's going to get mad or think you're wasting his time. I think that's huge for a head coach from a player's standpoint."
Many of Caputi's Baby Pens teammates echoed his assessment of Bylsma, who was an assistant with the team for two seasons before taking over as head coach this year.
He's clearly a player's coach, in stark contrast to Therrien's disciplinarian act.
"I think it's pretty much a 180 personality wise," winger Paul Bissonnette said. "I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that."
Bylsma also favors a more aggressive offensive approach than his predecessor.
By the time Caputi was called up this season, Therrien already had the Penguins playing a defensive style.
"They played a high trap," he said. "You go to one spot and stand there and stay there."
Bylsma probably won't duplicate that approach. This season, the Baby Pens have shown more variety on the forecheck, using an in-your-face, two-man attack at certain times in games, like at the beginning of a period or after scoring a goal.
"I think he's going to emphasize speed and quick, hard plays, the way Pittsburgh's been playing the last two years," center Jeff Taffe said. "I think it's easy to sit back when things are going bad and just hope for turnovers rather than go out and create them yourself, which I think they'll do now."
While no Baby Penguins players were eager to point out Bylsma's shortcomings — he does, after all, have the power to punch their tickets to the NHL — there are potential pitfalls.
For one thing, the first five months of this season represent his only head coaching experience, and he hasn't faced any real adversity during that time. The Baby Pens are 25-7-1-1 since Thanksgiving. How will Bylsma react when a crisis erupts?
For another thing, at 38, he's barely older than some of his players. Bylsma and Petr Sykora, for example, were teammates in Anaheim from 2002-04.
"He's the coach and he's the boss, but he kind of has to earn the respect of the players," Bissonnette said. "It's going to be a transition period."
An account of the events Sunday that led to the Penguins' firing of former coach Michel Therrien, constructed through interviews (most times approximate):
1 a.m.: Team arrives at New York-area hotel following a charter flight from Toronto, where the Penguins lost, 6-2, Saturday night.
4:30 a.m.: Michel Therrien, in his hotel room, finishes watching film from the Toronto game.
6:30 a.m.: Therrien arrives at practice in Syosset, N.Y.
10 a.m.: Therrien and his staff meet with players to review Toronto game film, among other usual pre-practice activities.
2 p.m.: Following practice, Therrien and coaches continue planning for game Monday against the New York Islanders.
2:30 p.m.: General manager Ray Shero informs Penguins ownership he is considering a coaching change.
3 p.m.: Shero calls AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach Dan Bylsma to discuss potential interim head coaching opportunity with Penguins.
3:45 p.m.: Shero meets with his hockey operations staff regarding coaching situation.
4:30 p.m.: Shero gets approval from ownership to replace Therrien with Bylsma on an interim basis.
5 p.m.: Shero alerts Penguins media relations staff of impending coaching change; work on an official statement and press release begins.
7 p.m.: Shero informs Therrien of coaching change; conversation lasts "about five seconds," according to Therrien.
7:45 p.m.: Bylsma meets with AHL players following a victory against Worcester.
8:40 p.m.: Shero and Bylsma address media on a conference call.
10:15 p.m.: Bylsma meets with Penguins players for about 20 minutes, stresses the need for them to "rediscover the fun and enjoy the game."
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