It Was Time For A Change
Call it a move waiting to be made or an act of desperation. Either way, it’s clear it was time for a change in Pittsburgh.
Following an overly-successful season and an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals less than a year ago, the Penguins have been a huge disappointment.
Few of the traits that earned the team’s success a year ago remain.
The intensity isn’t there. The grittiness has vanished. The passion is gone. The desire is non-existent.
And that doesn’t even include the tangibles — offense, defense and goaltending.
Quite obviously, a team that was projected to be among the Eastern Conference’s elites has suffered a huge setback.
Sure, the losses of cogs such as Ryan Malone, Marian Hossa, Ty Conklin, and others have been difficult to overcome. But, realistically, no-one expected Miroslav Satan to replace Hossa, Ruslan Fedotenko to replace Malone, or Sabourin to replace Conklin.
The idea, simply, was to build off of the development of youngsters such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and others, and to play a well-coached, structured game.
That development came. Malkin and Crosby are first and third in league scoring respectively, Letang has emerged as one of the team’s top defenders, and others have grown into more prominent roles.
But the structure is gone and the team has looked like a bunch of orphans rather than a group inspired to make the playoffs.
Quite simply, Therrien has lost the team.
No game proved that more than last night’s embarrassment in Toronto.
Going in, the Penguins had the confidence from a huge win over the league’s second ranked team, the San Jose Sharks. But after gaining a 2-0 lead, they quit. Period.
What coach allows his team to quit?
And Michel Therrien didn’t either.
But his voice was not heard.
Now general manager Ray Shero has made his voice be heard, and the result is a change behind the bench.
This isn’t a move made in haste, but it also isn’t necessarily a move that will be permanent.
Shero’s decision came at an extremely critical time of the season. The Penguins must win now or the season will end in April, without a trip to the playoffs.
Is Dan Bylsma — now the youngest coach in the NHL at age 38 — the solution? Maybe. maybe not. No one really knows.
But the decision to fire Therrien had less to do with Bylsma and more to do with the team.
This is a message, a message that missing the playoffs is not acceptable. The design is to spark the players and to motivate them into playing with passion once again.
If the team succeeds, Bylsma may be considered the permanent solution behind the bench. If it does not, odds are Shero will bring in a more experienced coach this summer.
Either way, firing Therrien and replacing him with Bylsma is not a bad move. The Penguins weren’t going far with Therrien, so they have nothing to lose.
Tomorrow, the Penguins will embark on a new beginning, an opportunity to get back on the right track.
Only time will tell if a fresh face behind the bench will be enough to push them to a playoff berth.