New Penguins GM wants coach hired by July 1
Dan Bylsma owns the fourth-best winning percentage in NHL history. He no longer owns a job.
Three weeks after former general manager Ray Shero was fired, Bylsma met the same fate, courtesy of new general manager Jim Rutherford and Penguins ownership.
He formally was dismissed Friday for failing to duplicate his initial success that saw him lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009 — his first season.
Bylsma, 43, must be paid approximately $2 million for each of the final two years remaining on his contract unless he takes another NHL head coaching job.
Now the Penguins and Rutherford will seek a successor capable of guiding them to another championship.
“I have a short list of coaches in mind,” said Rutherford, who would like to have a coach in place before free agency begins July 1.
Rutherford, who was the general manager of the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise for 20 seasons, employed only four head coaches. None of them is available for the Penguins' job. Paul Holmgren (Flyers president), Paul Maurice (Jets coach), Peter Laviolette (Predators coach) and Kirk Muller (Blues assistant) are locked into duties.
Rutherford, perhaps in reference to Bylsma's recent playoff deficiencies, explained what he will require in his coach.
“We're going to have to have a coach who can make the proper adjustments during a game,” he said, “or during a certain period of time in the regular season or a playoff series.
“Because of the talent of the Penguins, the Penguins can play whatever way you want.”
Assistant coaches Tony Granato, Todd Reirden, Jacques Martin and Mike Bales remain on the Penguins' payroll but have been granted permission to seek employment elsewhere.
Although Rutherford had discussions with Penguins upper management about Bylsma's job status, he acknowledged having little relationship with the former coach before firing him.
“I took the information from people who were here,” he said. “I took the information over the last week with a couple of meetings that I had, and we agreed that making a change was the right thing to do.”
Rutherford said it is irrelevant if a coach isn't hired by the NHL Entry Draft (June 27-28) because that person will have no influence on who is drafted.
Although Rutherford has watched the Penguins only from afar, he said their performance in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the New York Rangers was subpar. Rutherford didn't see enough passion in the team.
“You can't just measure success based on where you finished because injuries and breaks play a huge part,” he said. “To me, it's going to be how we win and how we lose. If we lose a series, whatever one it is, and we give it everything we have, that's the way the game goes.”
On that topic, Rutherford spoke of a locker room dynamic that needs to be fixed and suggested the new coach needs to help mold a tougher mentality.
“I suspect that we have good character in that room,” he said. “But it's quiet. It's a quiet approach where you don't have one or two guys who can stand up and say, ‘This is what's really going on.'
“To have someone who's a little more vocal, I suspect that's probably needed.”
Bylsma, who could not be reached for comment, won the most games (252) in Penguins history and is the only man to complete five consecutive full seasons as the team's coach.
Rutherford said he will have complete control in hiring the next coach.
“We won't have a different philosophy,” he said of a new coach. “I'm hiring the guy.”
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