Good morning, Pens fans! 44 days till puck drop!
Following the departure of Gilles Meloche as goaltending coach (he will stay on in a scouting role), the Penguins have finally hired his successor, thus completing the coaching staff for Dan Bylsma. They have chosen to promote from within, elevating the organization's goaltending development coach Mike Bales (Bales New Goalie Coach). The 42-year-old Saskatchewan native has been a goaltending coach since he hung up his pads in 2010 after 18 professional seasons, including 20-some games at the NHL level. He's been Penguins goaltending development coach since July 2011. Under his tutelage, the goaltending duo of Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff combined to post the AHL's lowest combined GAA last season, winning the Harry Holmes Memorial Award. More recently he worked with new young goalies in our organization Eric Hartzell and Tristan Jarry. Here is a Mike Bales soundbite and video from past development sessions.
As per numerous Swedish-language articles and many tweets (most of them in Swedish but some in English, as the one below), one of the other finalists was Swedish goalie coach Erik Granqvist, who apparently had the backing of Sidney Crosby, who he met at a skills camp in LA.
@pgshelly Erik Granqvist today confirmed he was one of the final candidates. Was recommended by Crosby who he has met at a skillscamp in LA.— Johan Eriksson (@VFeriksson) August 19, 2013
The third finalist, according to Josh Yohe's twitter and several other sources, was former Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson.
Pens officially hire Mike Bales as goalie coach. No surprise. They hold him in high regard. Brent Johnson was a candidate for the position.— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) August 19, 2013
Bales's promotion leaves open the position of goaltending development coach in the organization, and BJ is thought to be a candidate for that position. No sign of Tom Barrasso anywhere. Sigh.
Immediately after the news of the hiring was made public, opinions and thoughts started coming in. Of course, the Penguins think he's a perfect fit or they wouldn't have promoted him, that much goes without saying. Most of the opinions have been positive and hopeful that a change in approach might be a good thing for Marc-Andre Fleury, who's only ever had one goalie coach at the NHL level.
Others, though, cited his own not-so-stellar career numbers as an NHL goaltender (.869 SV%, 4.13 GAA in 23 games for the Ottawa Senators) and the fact that, following an excellent regular season for Thiessen and Zatkoff, things sort of fell apart for Zatkoff in the playoffs. At the end of last season Brad Thiessen became a free agent and signed with HIFK of the Finnish SM League, leaving Jeff Zatkoff with the starting job for the WBS Penguins.
Anyway, here we are. Bylsma's staff is complete (Granato, Reirden, Martin, Bales). He first turns his focus to USA Olympic Hockey Camp that starts this weekend, followed by a fast-approaching Penguins training camp.
And totally off-topic, but happy birthday, Joe Vitale!