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Bylsma, Penguins Need Culture Shock

The Penguins don't need to get rid of Dan Bylsma, but a culture shock is in order.


When the Penguins traded for and re-signed Tomas Vokoun last summer, it was, if not publicly, a wake-up call for struggling netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.

"Get it going, or you're gone."

The acquisition proved vital. Vokoun righted Fleury's ship, taking the Pens to a Conference Finals berth they might not otherwise have earned, and perhaps helped to seal Fleury's fate in Pittsburgh.

Vokoun was to be a wake-up call second, and a reliable alternative first.

Dan Bylsma has overseen one Cup Champion and four staggering playoff meltdowns. It's time the Penguins gave their coaching staff a wake-up call.

We won't suggest Bylsma should be fired here. But something needs to happen.

Since Bylsma's first postseason, when the Penguins went 16-8 en route to the 2009 title, the team is just 20-21, with four series losses and one Conference Finals (dis)appearance. The Pens have beaten only the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders in the last four postseasons, and were swept in the Conference Finals this season -- the first time since 1979 the franchise suffered a postseason sweep.

The losses weren't just bad. Often, they weren't even competitive, and with shocking numbers to boot.

Montreal beat the Pens in seven games in 2010 -- as the eighth seed in the conference. The Lightning won three straight in 2011, where Pittsburgh's power play clicked at less than five percent. Philadelphia...Philadelphia. Boston held the Penguins to two goals in four games, where the Pens had previously been scoring more than four goals in any one game.

Those aren't losses. Those are belly-up disasters.

The saying holds that you can't fire a whole roster, but my goodness is this franchise ever getting accustomed to turnover. The Flyers humiliated Pittsburgh last season -- by the time the Pens prepared to face Boston in Game 1, nearly half the roster was new as compared to last year's model.

With free agency and a cap reduction pending, nearly half of the current model will be different by Pittsburgh's first game back this fall.

Where this summer's changes will in large part be the fallout of league-sponsored parity measures (at least they can be called that, publicly, if this team remains steadfast in its commitment to numbing corporate dumbspeak), the changes between this year and last were wholly in response to the weaknesses the Flyers exposed.

Can Pittsburgh really keep changing personnel without changing the staff?

Maybe a shake-up in the assistant ranks is in order. Without knowing exactly how much sway each assistant holds, the dismissal of Bylsma's chosen assistants Tony Granato and Todd Reirden would send a clear message that no one is safe following a dismal loss like the one to the Bruins.

As pointed out by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett is a pending free agent coach. Would he take an assistant coaching position with the Penguins? Such a move would set a clear ultimatum, clearer even than Vokoun's signing.

Tippett routinely made something out of nothing in Phoenix, where every win was a penny successfully pinched. His routinely excellent defenses were culled out of as much annual salary as your dad's regional manager and even made goaltenders Mike Smith and Ilya Bryzgalov sought-after free agents.

Imagine what he could do with his hands on Pittsburgh's roster?

The team might clean house entirely -- or they might leave the cobwebs to gather dust for another year. Goaltending coach Gilles Meloche is expected to request his resignation this week, but pointing to a new goaltending coach is no evidence of accountability. Bylsma's future is still up in the air until Wednesday. The team conducted exit-day interviews Sunday, where Bylsma and most of his players spoke to the media for the final time this season.

GM Ray Shero did not speak Sunday and won't until a press conference this Wednesday.

Perhaps he needs more time to make a few decision on the eve of that presser. Perhaps the team is giving their players and coaches some time to decompress before making significant announcements. Maybe this is all much ado about nothing. Personnel changes aren't likely to begin until early July. Evgeni Malkin can sign or decline a contract extension starting July 5. Every other move is likely to follow Malkin's situation.

However, Shero's standalone press conference could portend some big changes.

We already know the roster is set to be turned upside-down for the second time in as many disappointing offseasons.

But as the roster wasn't the only deficiency in the Bruins series, it can't be the only thing held accountable.