On February 15th the Penguins made the call to pull the plug on Michel Therrien and turn the reigns over to Dan Bylsma. Pittsburgh seemed down and out, with a 27-25-5 record and, even worse, didn't seem to have the enthusiasm that carried them within two games of the Stanley Cup just eight months earlier.
Since then, of course, Bylsma's made magic. Under his guidance and armed with a new aggressive style and the returned joy of playing, the Penguins shot to a 18-3-4 record down the regular season stretch and went from 10th in the conference all the way up to 4th.
Last summer the Penguins gave Therrien a three year contract extension. Therrien's going to get that money no matter what, through the 2010-11 season. Ray Shero doesn't want to name a new head coach, only to have to fire him and then possibly being paying three coaches -- with only one of them actually working.
Bylsma, a 38 year old former player, has had a meteroic rise through the coaching ranks. 2004-05 Byslma was an assistant with Cincinnati aof the AHL, the following season he was an assistant for the New York Islanders. For two years he was an assistant in Wilkes-Barre, before being named the head coach there at the beginning of this 2008-09 season.
Limited experience, especially as being a head coach, definitely is there for Disco Dan. Bylsma has the lockeroom solidly in his corner right now, but once upon a time they responded well to the stern taskmaster Therrien. So far though, pretty much all Bylsma has done in the NHL is win and it's tough to argue with those results. With guys talent like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and a healthy Sergei Gonchar, the Penguins are expected to go deep into the playoffs every year. The coach is in a thankless position: win and that's what you're supposed to do. Lose and you're an idiot that's ruining Crosby and Malkin. Luckily for Bylsma, it hasn't come to that yet, as he's steered the Pens into the second round of the playoffs now, with seemingly more to come.
If you're running the show, have you seen enough from Bylsma to crown him the man to lead the Pens long-term? If not, what more does he have to do, win another round, two more rounds? Or maybe you don't have such a set guidelines and just would evaluate things at the end of the season, like Ray Shero is going to do. Just some topics to think about as the Pens sit and wait to see who they're going up against for the next step to the Cup.