Following the Pittsburgh Penguins’ four-game elimination in the Eastern Conference final, coach Dan Bylsma couldn’t have felt great about his immediate future as a hockey coach.
Less than a month later, he probably couldn’t be more confident.
A couple weeks after receiving a two-year contract extension from the Penguins, the 42-year-old Bylsma will be named the head coach for the United States’ 2014 Winter Olympic team, according to USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen. USA Hockey is scheduled to formally announce Bylsma and the rest of its Olympic support staff Saturday.
Bylsma, a Jack Adams Award-winner for NHL coach of the year in 2011 and a Stanley Cup champion in 2009, has coached the Penguins to 201 regular-season wins and a .671 points percentage during his five-year tenure in Pittsburgh. The Pens were the top seed in the East this postseason and defeated the Islanders and Senators before the Bruins knocked them out in the third round.
The Penguins’ recent playoff disappointments – they are 3-4 in best-of-seven series since their Cup win – have taken some of the shine off Bylsma’s reputation, but the native of Grand Haven, Mich., is still held in high esteem in the general hockey community. He reportedly beat out fellow Stanley Cup winners John Tortorella and Peter Laviolette for the Team USA gig.
In particular, Bylsma’s up-tempo style, level-headed temperament and experience coaching stars had to boost his credentials with the higher-ups at USA Hockey. His offensively-focused approach could be quite effective on the larger international ice surface that will be used next year in Sochi, Russia.
USA Today’s Allen also reported that Penguins general manager Ray Shero will be assistant GM on the national team, helping his former boss, current Nashville Predators GM David Poile. Brian Burke, Team USA’s GM in 2010 when it won silver in Vancouver, will also lend his player-evaluation expertise to the process.
Of course, this is all contingent on the NHL, NHL Players’ Association and International Ice Hockey Federation agreeing on the inclusion of NHL players in the Olympics for the fifth straight time. League commissioner Gary Bettman recently stated the matter will be settled on Monday, and he is optimistic.