Penguins ownership favors firing Bylsma, still to decide on Shero
Mario Lemieux was not inside the Penguins' dressing room after their Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers.
He already was at work trying to figure out his club's future.
Lemieux, fellow majority co-owner Ron Burkle and CEO David Morehouse met Wednesday to determine the future of general manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma, sources told the Tribune-Review. The Penguins' top brass also met before Game 7 — in New York and Pittsburgh — to evaluate the state of the franchise, the sources said.
Ownership is not happy with a perceived lack of accountability, overall team toughness and poor drafts, the sources said.
No decision on Shero had been made as of Wednesday, but ownership favored terminating Bylsma, the sources said.
Lemieux, also the Penguins' chairman, preferred keeping Shero, the general manager since May 2006. Burkle believed the Penguins needed a new general manager to rebuild a potential championship roster around captain Sidney Crosby, the sources said.
Crosby's body language during the playoffs concerned ownership, the sources said. That is one reason Lemieux took the unusual move of talking with Crosby in the visitors dressing room at Madison Square Garden after Game 6, the sources said.
Crosby scored only one goal in 13 playoff games and finished without a point in three losses to the Rangers after the Penguins jumped to a 3-1 series lead in Round 2. The regular-season scoring champion and presumptive MVP, Crosby said he was not injured.
Crosby once lived in Lemieux's Sewickley guest house and is close with the family. He also is tight with Burkle, a billionaire grocery magnate. Crosby and Burkle teamed to try to end the NHL lockout in December 2012.
Crosby signed a 12-year, $104.4 million extension in July 2012. A year later, fellow franchise center Evgeni Malkin was inked to an eight-year extension worth $76 million.
All NHL contracts are guaranteed. The Penguins already have paid Crosby and Malkin a combined $119 million since their NHL debuts. The players have combined to win four scoring titles, two MVPs and the Stanley Cup in 2009.
They appeared together at a podium to handle media responsibilities a day before Game 7, and each acknowledged a friendship has developed beyond just being teammates.
Crosby and Malkin felt they needed one another this season when they grew frustrated with Bylsma, the sources said.
Crosby and Malkin grew disenchanted with perceived harsh criticism they received from Bylsma during meetings, the sources said. They and other veteran players were unhappy with Bylsma's numerous meetings and long practices and the decreasing sense of fun within the Penguins' environment, the sources said.
Ownership believed Bylsma lost the dressing room this season, specifically the support of Crosby and Malkin, the sources said.
The sources added that Burkle contended Shero specifically tethered himself to Bylsma, whom he signed to a two-year extension after the Penguins were swept from the Eastern Conference final last June. That is why the length of Bylsma's deal was made to run concurrent with the final years remaining on Shero's contract, the sources said.
If Bylsma were deemed necessary to replace, Shero would be held accountable, the sources said.
“Dan's my coach,” Shero said last June.
Shero told his wife to be ready to move if the Penguins lost Game 7 against the Rangers, the sources said.
The Penguins lost 2-1 to complete a second blown 3-1 series lead in the past four postseasons. They have lost to a lower-seeded playoff opponent for five consecutive years since winning the Cup in 2009.
No members of the Penguins were available for comment Wednesday, vice president of communications Tom McMillan said.
The Penguins final media availability for players is scheduled for Thursday morning. No mention of Bylsma was on the news release sent via email about 1 p.m. on Wednesday.