May 4, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma (top left) talks to referee Eric Furlatt (27) against the New York Rangers during the first period in game two of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins: Is It Possible Dan Bylsma Returns Next Season?


While reading through extended interviews with Pittsburgh Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle last Friday, a persistent thought kept popping up in my head.

Is it possible Dan Bylsma returns to coach the team next season?

That notion seems highly improbable on the surface, as whoever replaces Ray Shero in the general manager’s chair will almost certainly want to bring in his own coaching staff.

But while scanning through the transcript of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier’s gab session with Lemieux and Burkle, I’m starting to think the Disco era isn’t quite dead at Consol Energy Center.

One passage in particular has the gears in my head turning. From Burkle:

“I also think that it’s too easy to blame it on the coach and throw the coach out and have the GM stay, it’s more complicated than that. As Mario said, Dan’s done a lot of great things here and he’s been a good coach.”

“When we try to evaluate why we haven’t been more success in playoffs, obviously the coach comes into the picture, but if you listened to what we said about what kind of team we want to have – and we don’t have what kind of team we want to have today – then that comes back to more of a GM issue.”

If that wasn’t enough to make you think, try this line from Lemieux:

“If you look around the league, there are some great organizations. Look at Detroit. They don’t win the Cup every year but (Mike) Babcock is still the coach. If you have a great coach, you’re not going to win every year but certainly the expectation is still there for Detroit and a team like us.”

Not only does that statement tweak the Mike Babcock-to-Pittsburgh rumors just a bit, it also tells you that Lemieux is hesitant to continue the not-so-proud Penguins tradition of changing coaches as often as most people buy new shoes. Bylsma’s five-year stint in Pittsburgh has already bucked that trend, although compiling the most wins in franchise history has helped in that regard.

While Burkle and Lemieux were careful to say that GM candidates wouldn’t disqualify themselves by expressing a desire to dismiss Bylsma, I get the feeling if someone wants to succeed Shero, he is going to have to make a convincing case for a coaching overhaul.

Related: Pens fired Shero because he let the foundation crumble

If you’ll remember Friday morning, reports leaked out that the Penguins were going to fire Bylsma and Shero in tandem later that day. At some point before that noontime press conference, team ownership changed its collective mind on the situation, electing to lop off the head of the hockey operations department first.

I’d still bet that there will be a new face behind the Penguins’ bench in October, but the alternative – as unlikely as it may seem on the surface – is definitely still in play.

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Tags: Dan Bylsma Mario Lemieux Pittsburgh Penguins Ray Shero

  • AndyO

    Unbelievable. Fire Bylsma now. Yes the players are completely at fault for their often undisciplined or unmotivated play but the coach is the one that keeps them accountable. In addition during a flyers game Pierre asked Disco Dan whether he wanted his team to play a skill or physical style game and he said a physical game…against the Flyers. I think he’s completely clueless and overwhelmed and a change needs to happen b4 Sid and Geno are past their primes

    • Matt Gajtka

      I’m with you on the stylistic issue. Especially with this year’s team, the focus needed to be on speed and skill. Sometimes I wonder if Dan might be better off coaching a team of grinders, because it seems like that’s how he wants everyone to play.

      • Mason Leightle

        thats how you have to play, you’ve seen the Bruins, Blackhawks and LA Kings, it’s open melee out there, it’s a physical game

  • Michael J. Coslo

    Seriously? So I guess that Shero was the reason the Pens couldn’t adapt to postseason play?

    If Lemieux hasn’t figured out what all th fans and all the Penguins opponents have figured out by now, that Bylsma is rigid and cannot adapt his game plan to the playoffs, then it looks like more early exits until, well I guess the present situation is what we’re going to have for the forseeable future.

    Or are the fans just supposed to be happy with huge collapses, and early exits?

  • Mason Leightle

    some of these comments are simply something I do not support. I watch the regular season and the post-season for 3 years in a row now, what I see is Malkin and Crosby, Letang, Fleury, struggling to adapt to post-season play because “it’s hard”. You can’t blame Bylsma for the breakdown of the players in Boston and against the New York Islanders last post-season….and you certainly can’t look to Dan based on how Columbus and the Rangers stopped us again. Like my brother said, the stars got a switch, they turn in on or off, when they feel like playing they will play….that’s what 9 million a year gets you…players that decide when
    they will be coached, that is not going to change with a new coach, because the problem, the song remains the same. For one or two games in the Rangers series the Penguins looked brilliant, like the best in the NHL. Result of Bylsma? Then they lost three games in a row. THIS IS NOT BYLSMAS FAULT.

    • Matt Gajtka

      You make some good points, Mason. The Pens were pretty damn good in Games 2-4 against New York, and they looked fully engaged in executing the game plan. For some reason, that went away for long stretches in Games 5-6. Then they simply got beat in Game 7. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new GM fired Bylsma, but I agree it’s not a slam dunk.

    • AndyO

      I agree completely that its the players fault. And they definitely appear to not always give 100%. But its the coach who holds them accountable and any issues concerning effort or smart play fall on him to police. A better culture needs to b established. Because the one thats in place right now is marred by underachieving, cheap shots, and turnovers that hang the flower out to dry. Bottom line for me is do we have a better shot to turn things around with Disco Dan or under a new regime that can shake things up and get everyone reinvested and back on track. Bylsma had 5 straight disappointing playoffs, I dont think his firing is unfair to him or reactionary by Mario. The big pieces are in place and its time to win now

      • Matt Gajtka

        If they make a couple major trades, I could support bringing Bylsma back. Something has to change, though, and in a big way.

        • AndyO

          Yeah If they did a major overhaul it would be a huge wake up call to the players that are on the roster next yr. I just dont see that happening tho. I’ve wanted them to move Letang for awhile but that seems really unlikely now and its hard for me to imagine them moving geno

      • Mason Leightle

        Actually, I wonder if you are missing my main point, if the team one day can look like the best in the NHL, then fall apart, like a switch, choose to not be coached, then what you have is overpaid talent. Do you really think losing Fleury, Letang, Malkin or Crosby would be bad for the Penguins? Might it not be good for their career or them personally to be say be fired for poor performance, not delivering on the investment. Might it not be also bad for them and the Penguins as an organization to see their coach fired because they decided not to play? Sending the wrong message. It takes work to win a cup, less so to finish on top in the regular season. Something I saw, the last game the Penguins players cared in the Rangers series, they looked like they could beat anybody, the way Malkin passed and players swarmed, it was brilliant. If you aren’t delivering Cup level play every game every playoff series for the 9 miil a year we paying you, then your out….period…Crosby and Malkin put fans in that nice Shiny not so new Consol Energy Center, everyone says they the best in the NHL, that helps too….Maybe that’s the limit of the sights of the organization.. steady stream of revenue. In any case , I wouldn’t want to be in Bylsma’s shoes from the perspective that it’s got to be pretty frustrating to see his stars fall apart in the post-season, and should I even be coaching here. I’d be pissed to have to sit behind those players and know they not giving their all, and here you got those rookies in February busting tail for nothing but a chance and winning games, and 36 million a year is out on the ice in the post-season passing time…

        • AndyO

          I really dont disagree. And I feel the same frustration with our superstars when it seems like they have a switch that they decide to turn on or off to use your words. And would it send the wrong message to fire him because of their underperforming? ….yes. But I just dont think he’s a very good coach in the first place honestly. Furthermore Letang is probably unmovable at this time, and unless u want to move sid or geno or neal I think we need to bring in someone who will get the most out of them. Babcock doesnt seem to put up with crap from his players. Either way its the players fault tho no doubt but I think we need to hire a meaner babysitter lol if the core of this team stays intact

          • Mason Leightle

            I don’t know how far back you recall, but we had a similar situation after winning the 2nd cup in the early 90′s….Scotty Bowman, coaching for Pittsburgh? Players wouldn’t be coached, so our brilliant Pens organization sent him off and he went on to Detroit where he had won 3 more cups and became one of the winningest coaches in the NHL. We spent those years in the basement. I don’t know if you can turn around that attitude, and to say Bylsma hasn’t tried? Some other coach will do better? Those stars we have have never been on another team, perhaps getting fired will help them be better players….i don’t know if you can fix what’s broken with someone more stern, don’t forget, the players ousted Michelle Therrien, not fun, too much of a coach…thin line eh?

  • Michael J. Coslo

    Looks like all the talk about change was a bit premature.

    Vegas is going to start making book on which playoff series the Pens collaps in.