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Kovacevic: Penguins losing marbles, too?

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma speaks to the media as players clean out their lockers Sunday, June 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

About Dejan Kovacevic
Picture Dejan Kovacevic
Sports Columnist
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Dejan Kovacevic is a sports writer for the Tribune-Review.

By Dejan Kovacevic

Published: Sunday, June 9, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

As if it weren't enough for the Penguins to lose their offense, lose their power play and lose a dominant chunk of their dignity by losing in four straight to the Bruins, it now would appear they're losing their minds.

Unless, of course, you can concoct a different way to interpret this remark from Dan Bylsma at the team's breakup session Sunday at Consol Energy Center: “Marc-Andre Fleury is our No. 1 goalie. He's the No. 1 goalie for this franchise. And he will be going forward.”

Tape doesn't lie. The man said that.

Wait; it gets better.

“We were in a situation where Tomas Vokoun went in the net and won the third and fourth game of a series for us and continued to play.”

Against the Islanders, you'll recall.

“But you know, Marc-Andre Fleury is a guy who's going to come back to our team, and he's going to be the No. 1 goalie. He's going to be our franchise goalie. He's going to be this franchise's goalie.”

I suppose it's possible Bylsma repeated the point so many times because he couldn't believe he was saying it, either.

I know I couldn't.

And I really couldn't believe it when Bylsma was asked to expound upon what this declaration meant to Vokoun and came up with this: “Tomas ... um, I don't think is in any different boat than when he came in last year. He's going to play games for us, big games, but ... next year, he's not going to get that opportunity because Marc-Andre Fleury's going to be in net for us winning hockey games.”

Oh, for real.

The coach outright tossed into the trash the goaltender who just (maybe) saved the coach's job and who just (undoubtedly) was his team's playoff MVP by a preposterously wide margin. Bylsma exhibited zero timing, zero awareness of what Vokoun means to his teammates.

As one esteemed gentleman who also was in that media room loves to say, you had to be there to believe it.

I don't care if the entire event was a ploy to prop up Fleury's trade value this offseason. It might well have been that. Fleury's got two years and $10 million left on his deal, and maybe they think they'll get a better return by floating out all these false platitudes — no matter how obvious it is to the hockey world that they abjectly gave up on Fleury in the past two months.

Either way, you don't make that point at the public expense of Vokoun, who just might be that No. 1 goaltender next season.

The whole thing stunk.

It felt a little fishy, too.

Why, if the Penguins' management had this sudden, seismic declaration to make about Fleury, was it crystal clear that nobody told Fleury himself?

When Fleury was asked pointedly if he thought the coaching staff still had confidence in him, his barely audible answer was this: “Ummmm ... I don't know. I haven't really talked with Dan yet. I talked with Gilles. We had a good talk. I don't know. You should ask them about me.”

Gilles Meloche is the goaltending coach.

Fleury spoke mere minutes before Bylsma took the podium in a separate room.

Vokoun, who almost always is available to media, wasn't around at all.

The coach wasn't much better on other issues.

Asked about what didn't work against the Bruins, Bylsma would answer with what did work against the Islanders or Senators.

I asked yet again for Bylsma to explain his glaring misuse of Jarome Iginla by having him lost at left wing and left off the power play, and his long reply was best summed up by: “Where Jarome was used was the best fit for our team.”

Asked about young players Beau Bennett and Simon Despres, Bylsma replied that Bennett will be a “top-six forward” and Despres “a top-four defenseman” next year. You know, right after neither was a top-20 player through most of the playoffs.

Asked why Paul Martin, the Penguins' top skater against Boston, never was used on the top power play: “We really felt like the top power-play unit didn't get out there enough, for various reasons.” Right. He wanted to see more of the 0-for-15 guys.

Questions were cut off after 14 minutes.

I've always liked Bylsma as a coach, and so apparently do his players, judging by their unconditional endorsements Sunday.

“Our coaches are unbelievable,” James Neal said.

“We're as prepared as anyone,” Douglas Murray said.

“We just didn't execute,” Sidney Crosby said.

But right after that, Bylsma's nervous, nonsensical session inspired about as much confidence as what he just showed in a good player and good man who deserved far better. It was an absolute mess and one that might have unearthed much about an even bigger mess behind the scenes.

Oh, there was this, too: Bylsma acknowledged not having spoken yet to Ray Shero about his job status for next season.

Shero's turn to address the media is Wednesday. Could be he'll have plenty to say.

Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

 

 

 
 


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