First things first: I'm really excited to be posting again! It hurts to know that I'm not able to hang around here as much as I was this summer, but Hooks, Frank, Justin and everyone else have been doing a fantastic job keeping this the best Penguins blog on the web. Even though I'm not posting as often, I do come here at least once a day to see what's going on, and I especially enjoy reading everyone's post-game thoughts that get posted in the comments section after each game.
And without further ado, here we go...
I was perusing the comments to last night's Flyers game, and I came across this statement by bpuszko:
HCDB will be gone before this season ends. With the amount of talent on the team, they should be winning; but they are not, therefore it falls on the coach. I believe that the team is turning against him, just like they did with MT.
I am not trying to call bp out, or make this seem like a personal attack, but I probably couldn't disagree more with the sentiment expressed. Whenever this team starts to struggle, I believe the last person anyone should blame is Bylsma. I've never played competitive hockey, nor have I coached a team at any level, so I'm not aware of the intricacies and nuances of being a professional hockey coach. However, I am sure that almost no one outside of the NHL has a good idea about what goes on behind the scenes, or what makes a coach great.
As far as I can tell, Bylsma looks to be doing everything right. The biggest effect a coach can have on his team is how he chooses to structure his team's system and approach to the game. On the one end you have Mike Babcock (as well as Bylsma), who think you should out-shoot and out-possess your opponents as much as possible. At the other end, you have a coach like Jacques Lemaire, who favors a trapping system that seems to pit the teams in a battle of who can score the game's only goal (of course there are systems in between, but they'll tend toward one end of the spectrum). I know coaches can do more to affect their team, but how much the pep talks and behind the scenes stuff helps is impossible to measure.
But trying to figure out which system is superior is easy: Bylsma and Babcock are undoubtedly right. If you look at the team's that out-shot their opponents the most over the last couple of years, you get the league's elite teams. In addition, the last three Stanley Cup winners (Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit) all embodied the out-shoot philosophy. Bylsma knows the best system, he's gotten our team to play it, and he's won one Cup in less than two years of coaching. Until he starts ordering the players to give up breakaways or turn the puck over in the neutral zone, I don't see how you get upset at Danny B.
The Penguins have got to be one of the least lucky teams when it has come to injuries the last two years. Our D pairings have been depleted so far, and Staal hasn't even started a game yet. And yet this is exactly the reason why I think we should refrain from making any dire predictions about our season or the talent of this team.
The Penguins did not spend $4 million on Michalek for nothing, and losing him and Orpik at the beginning of the season was a HUGE blow. When you have three WBS defensemen in your lineup (even though they have filled in admirably) you are not going to be a dominant team. Furthermore, Staal's return should give us even more reason to get excited. Crosby has continued to produce even against the league's best units. When Staal and Malkin are finally, and healthily, united, it should be obvious to everyone that there is no second line D pairing or forward unit that will be able to contain the two of them. Their size, speed, and sheer talent will definitely overcome their opponents. When we get 40 or 50 games into the season, teams will realize they have two options: play your first unit against Staal and Geno, and watch Sid demolish your second line, or play your first unit against Sid, and watch Geno and Staal destroy your second line. Either way, the Pens win.
That's all I've got for now my friends; the season is still too young for some in-depth numbers analysis. Go Pens!