As I have watched other teams compete in the playoffs, I have been reminded of how special Dan Bylsma is and how much his attitude seems to contribute to the Penguins' success. In the days of Michel Therrien, I was used to our coach blaming players and acting helpless at his famous press conferences. For example, who could forget:
We don't have the right attitude. We like to complain about each other on the bench and on the ice. They better wake up pretty quick... I'm really disappointed with their work ethic and the concentration. Until they change their attitude, we are going to have the same results.
But now, I'm so used to Bylsma's classy press conferences that I get a little surprised when I see other coaches doing the things that Bylsma refuses to do -- calling out underperforming players, whining about the officiating, getting visibly angry or distraught, accusing players on the other team of playing dirty or diving, making tasteless jokes.
I have a little soft spot for Bruce Boudreau even though the Capitals are of course the enemy -- it's hard to dislike a man who is so clearly passionate about his team, and isn't afraid to be openly emotional about it. His local commercials are awkward and precious, and I think it's sort of touching, if misguided, that he defends Ovechkin no matter what he does.
But watching the press conferences, I think that Bylsma would handle the Capitals' situation very ditfferently (and much better). Bylsma would never call out individual players (Semin) and say that the team "played like crap." He would also project confidence instead of saying, in response to a question about not letting frustration carry over into game seven, "I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine."
Bylsma projects calm and focus no matter what happens. When the team was down 3-0 in Game 6, they knew that the expectation was to "play our game" and "play the right way" regardless of the situation. As Bylsma said in an interview yesterday,
"When it was 3-0 and 3-1, it doesn’t matter what the score is, it doesn’t matter what the games are in the series. You just have to keep playing and playing and playing the right way and get to your game so you take the doubt out of the series."
"Dan motivates in a different way. I think he really tries to get to know each and every player's personality and what makes them tick. But I think he feels he can get to guys without threats, without embarrassing anybody."
Bylsma will express confidence in the team, and in individual players, no matter what the situation. In the rare occasions that he does lose confidence in a player (Martin Skoula), the most you get out of him is that benching the player was "a coaching decision." He also refuses to whine about the officiating or about NHL disciplinary decisions. In short, he's a class act, and I believe it's a big part of our team's success.