Lacing Up: Coaching Strategies
Name(s): Dan Bylsma, coach; Tony Granato, assistant coach; Todd Rierden, assistant coach; Giles Meloche, goaltending coach
Status: Bylsma is signed through 2013-14 (status of assistants is unknown)
Bylsma has finished his fourth fifth season as the Penguins’ coach, recording a 201-92-25 regular season record. He’s coached the Penguins to a Stanley Cup, which was followed by a Conference Semifinal loss, two Conference Quarterfinal losses, and now a Conference Final loss. He is a Jack Adams winner, the quickest coach to win 200 games, and the second winningest coach in Penguins history.
Matt Paul: Josh, we’re taking a new approach to “Lacing Up” this summer, focusing on individuals as the Penguins find answers to their many flaws. Today we start with Bylsma and his staff.
We know Bylsma is a quality coach, as demonstrated by his accolades and capped by a Stanley Cup. But since winning that Cup, Bylsma and his staff have underachieved in four post-seasons.
Some years the roster was depleted by injuries, but it wasn’t that they were eliminated, but rather how they were eliminated. They let their foot off the gas, didn’t take their opponent seriously, got too involved in the petty crap, or all of the above.
Has a pattern been established?
Joshua Neal: I think so, yes. The Penguins have been unpredictably disappointing in the playoffs for so long that they have become predictably disappointing in the playoffs. How much of that is the coach’s fault?
In looking at the Boston series, the Penguins were outplayed in just about every aspect of the game. But when your team isn’t producing goals, it’s hard to assign blame to just one person. Whether Crosby, Malkin, or Letang were the scapegoat this year or in years past, they didn’t show up to some degree for whatever reason: be it injury or ineffective/inconsistent play.
But you can fire a coach a lot easier than you can “fire” a player. And that’s one of the reasons that a team who has been to the playoffs for a long stretch of consecutive seasons might be bouncing Bylsma.
One point of contention that arose in the playoffs was the goaltending situation. How much of that has to do with coaching, Matt? And should Gilles Meloche polish up his resume?
Matt: I’m of the belief that blaming a coach for player failures oftentimes is a copout. But I’m also of the belief that a good coach can bring the best out of his players. That hasn’t been the case with Fleury in the playoffs for years.
Where was the technique? The confidence? When a goalie struggles, one of the easiest ways to get back on track is to go back to the fundamentals. That never happened — and that has to be on the coach. I’ve never been a fan of Meloche and feel his time should be up.
Likewise, I feel it’s time to move on with Tony Granato and Todd Rierden. While the power play was amazing for long stretches this year, it also was horrendous when it mattered most. The penalty kill, was opposite, coming around when it mattered most.
Still, these three, like Bylsma, are player-friendly coaches, and I have a feeling that, as much as schematics, is a big problem with this staff. Do you agree?
Josh Well, Matt, this conversation is aptly timed. Josh Yohe is reporting that Meloche is out as goaltending coach, as of Sunday’s media scrum during the locker clean outs.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but even though I haven’t taken much issue with Reirden or Granato, I think one of them has to go. Or someone new needs to be put in.
Here’s why: the Penguins are a perfect example of a team that buys in and goes all in on one system. I think that Bylsma, Reirden, and Granato have spent enough time together that they don’t challenge one another enough and the new ideas are not there like when they first began.
Your thoughts on that standpoint, Matt?
Matt: I think it’s a valid point, and one I’d like to add to. Not only do they all share similar ideas and philosophies about systems, positioning, etc., but they’re also all regarded as players’ coaches.
This may sound strange, but it’s a bit alarming when all players who were asked about the coaching staff staunchly defended what they’re doing. What we may be witnessing is the complete opposite of a coach losing the room: a coach who has become too close to the room.
They always say your boss shouldn’t be your friend. At what point (if he hasn’t already) will Bylsma lose his players because he refuses to hold them accountable for their actions?
At the very least, there are some issues with the coaching staff, one of which looks to be on the way to being resolved in the form of a new goalie coach. Shero is scheduled to speak to the media tomorrow, at which point we should have a strong idea of where he stands with regard to his coaching staff.