Parise backs Penguins coach Bylsma, Team USA system
Zach Parise said he had no problem with Dan Bylsma or his system during their time together with Team USA at the Winter Olympic Games.
“I liked his system, along with the other players,” Parise said in an email Monday. “His system didn't have anything to do with why we didn't win a medal.”
Parise captained the American men's ice hockey team that failed to score a goal in two closing losses last week in Sochi, Russia. The Americans were coached by Bylsma, who has presided over one of the NHL's top offenses in each of his five full seasons with the Penguins.
After a 5-0 loss to Finland in the bronze-medal game, several American players publicly criticized Team USA's effort. Parise said his club was “passive.”
“We had one forechecker at times, let them break out of their zone,” Parise said — a comment that was perceived as a shot at Bylsma.
Parise said Monday that perception was wrong.
“I never took a shot at Dan, and I never would,” Parise said in the email. “I was asked about how we played in a particular game, and I said we were passive as a team, not playing a passive system. We seemed slow as a group that particular game (against Finland).
“Dan did a great job coaching us and preparing us for all of the games, along with the other coaches.”
Members of Team USA management initially were concerned that players — specifically Parise, a face of USA Hockey — appeared to publicly poke at Bylsma in the wake of the disappointing Olympics finish. However, conversations between management and players Sunday cleared the air.
Also on Sunday, several Penguins players expressed disbelief and disappointment that Bylsma was taking heat for the Team USA's failure to medal after a 4-0 Olympics start. Bylsma also came under public fire last June after the Penguins were swept from the Eastern Conference final by Boston and only scored two goals in that series — though, ownership quickly authorized a two-year extension and raise for Bylsma, who was named coach of Team USA a few weeks later.
Parise said he supported Bylsma during a discussion Sunday with Ray Shero, the Penguins general manager who was Team USA's assistant for the Olympics. In their conversation, Parise offered details of what impressed him about Bylsma during the short Olympic tournament.
“He always asked for the opinion of the players on different things,” Parise said in the email. “And on the ice he let us play and demanded us to work. He was always detailed in his approach and his meetings. We were more than prepared from a scouting standpoint for each game.”
The Penguins pursued Parise, a friend to captain Sidney Crosby, as a free agent during the 2012 offseason. Parise left the New Jersey Devils for his home-state Minnesota Wild.
Minnesota's coach is Mike Yeo, an assistant to Bylsma for the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup squad.
Bylsma, who has more regular-season and playoff wins than any coach in Penguins history, was not available for comment. He and other Penguins personnel that were part of the Sochi Games returned to Pittsburgh on Monday.
The Penguins play at Minnesota on April 5.