Penguins baffled by ending, unsure of futures
The Penguins didn't level any shots at coach Dan Bylsma.
They didn't offer overwhelming support, either.
In an eerie scene Thursday in the Penguins locker room, some players met with the media while others opted against it before getting on with their summers. The respective fates of Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero were key topics.
Captain Sidney Crosby tepidly denied a Tribune-Review report that a rift has developed between the coaching staff and the Penguins' star players, including center Evgeni Malkin.
“You're going to hear a lot of that stuff, a lot of negativity, a lot of different rumors,” Crosby said. “That's normal when you lose. There are always people looking for reasons. Bottom line is, we didn't win.”
Many of the team's high-profile players, including Malkin, right wing James Neal and defenseman Paul Martin, opted against speaking with the media. Others did speak about the possibility of Bylsma and Shero losing their jobs.
“I don't know,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “A coach is a coach. It doesn't really matter. You have to do the job out there, and that was up to us to win those hockey games. Dan is not going to step on the ice and play those games. It was up to us to win games.”
Multiple players said privately that they expected Bylsma to be fired.
Left wing Tanner Glass said that change is inevitable.
“Any time you fall short, there's going to be change,” he said. “It will be from players, what they work on over the summer, to how you prepare for next season, the way the team plays, the way it is coached, the way it is managed. Any time you fall short, you have to make changes. If you do the status quo and expect different results, you're not very bright.”
While many Penguins brushed off talk of a rift between players and the coaching staff, one of the team's most respected veterans opted against offering an opinion. Right wing Pascal Dupuis, rehabbing from a knee injury that ended his season, was non-committal when asked if there were locker room issues.
“It was hard for me to get the pulse of the team, the group,” Dupuis said. “I can't really say anything about that.”
The Penguins, almost to a man, confessed exasperation at their continued playoff failures. They were unable to muster any explanation. Instead, only miffed expressions were evident.
“I don't know that it's just been one thing over the years,” right wing Craig Adams said. “It seems like it's something different every year. We couldn't play defense or kill a penalty against Philly (in 2012), and we were so undisciplined against them. Last year (against Boston), we couldn't score. This year, I feel like the way we started Games 5 and 7 really killed us.”
Adams made it quite clear that he does not hold Bylsma responsible.
“Not at all,” he said. “I think they have (Bylsma and Shero have) done a great job. This organization, from the top on down, has done everything to give us the best chance to win. The responsibility is squarely on the players for not winning.”
Crosby, the organization's most powerful player, insisted he will not be involved in determining a new coach, should Bylsma's expected dismissal come.