Starkey: Bylsma would be lucky to stay
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Dan Bylsma better hope his bosses have more patience with him than he and they had with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Bylsma and Fleury were heroes in the Penguins' magical Stanley Cup run of 2009. Neither has done much right in four postseasons since.
Fleury was given three springs and part of a fourth before deservedly losing his job. Why should Bylsma get five? To see if a fifth straight playoff exit can somehow top the previous four in terms of pure humiliation?
It's one thing to lose. It's quite another to disintegrate in increasingly disturbing fashion.
The favored Penguins melted down in Game 7 against Montreal, lost by six goals at home with a chance to close out Tampa Bay, gave up 30 goals in six games against the arch-rival Flyers and scored two goals — two! — in four games against the Bruins.
This star-studded club has gone four straight years without so much as sniffing the Stanley Cup.
Such endings normally precipitate significant change. Like putting your franchise goalie on alert by signing a $2 million “backup.” That was last year's move.
If I'm general manager Ray Shero and co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, I begin my examination at the top, the only logical starting place.
That means turning the spotlight onto Bylsma and $104.4 million captain Sidney Crosby.
Crosby is a column for another day. It's not like he's going anywhere. Just know that in his past three season-ending games — Game 7 against Montreal, Game 6 against Philly and Game 4 against Boston — his cumulative line reads like something out of Dennis Bonvie's bio: zero goals, zero assists, minus-5 rating.
So that leaves Bylsma, who has entered three of the past four postseasons fortified with an almost unfair array of talent and has done next to nothing with it.
His players routinely become unglued at critical moments. His special teams — both units or just one — fail spectacularly at some point each spring, never more so than in the adjustment-less power play's 0-for-15 showing against Boston.
Bylsma is not tough enough on his stars, who too often play an undisciplined brand of hockey that filters through the lineup. His sternest messages are saved for the likes of Tyler Kennedy and Simon Despres, the latter of whom is a top-four talent who should have been groomed for playoff action.
Instead, Despres was jerked in and out of the lineup all season and was unprepared for high-stakes competition.
Young players are buried in Bylsma's system, a system that features too much risk. The ultimate Bylsma puck retrieval, for example, calls for multiple touch passes before a direct delivery to the center speeding up the middle. Gorgeous when it works. An opponent's scoring chance when it doesn't.
Still, Bylsma obviously is a good coach. He'd be hired within minutes if fired here. The real question is whether he's the right coach for this franchise.
Nobody can take away the fabulous job he did in 2009, but it's instructive to remember that Bylsma had not yet fully implemented his ideas. Rather, he expertly tweaked Michel Therrien's system.
This is how then-assistant GM Chuck Fletcher described it: “Michel Therrien did a terrific job bringing accountability, a sense of defensive responsibility and structure. ... Dan was able to come in and open up the spigot a bit, if you will.”
In subsequent years, that spigot often unleashed a glorious waterfall of goals. Slowly, though, the defensive foundation rotted away. Bylsma tried to restore it this season. He vowed to learn from last year's shellacking, and his team delivered spurts of excellent defense.
But the Penguins fell in love with their reflection again in the romp over Ottawa — and then ran into a club maniacally dedicated to preventing goals.
What this team needs is a simpler structure that players can trust in the crucible of playoff hockey. The guess here is that Bylsma will be retained and perhaps asked to alter his system or staff. My move would be to go after Dave Tippett, whose contract with the beleaguered Phoenix Coyotes expires June 30.
Tippett could do what Bylsma did, only in reverse: Take a gifted, offensive-minded team and restore its defensive foundation. Turn down the spigot, if you will.
When pressed on his job status before Game 4, Bylsma reminded everyone, “I coached this hockey team in 2009.”
True enough, but that was a long time ago.
Just ask Fleury.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh rallies for second year of Pirates magic
- Steelers film session: Harrison on the field often
- Tomlin: Penalties only one factor in Steelers’ loss
- Pitt joins national team looking to unravel traumatic brain injuries
- Penn State notebook: Players get light workload during bye week
- Police: Charges unwarranted for Yough shop class project
- Corbett to sign bill to help lower fatal overdoses
- Steelers are vowing to fix the costly penalties, lack of self-discipline
- Prosecutors float possibility of jail time for former Justice Melvin
- Women sues over injuries she blames on Pittsburgh EMS
- Mental health facility won’t take Franklin Regional stabbing suspect as patient