Update: The Penguins have extended coach Dan Bylsma, so he is now eliminated from the head coaching pool.
Original Post: The Penguins were swept out of the playoffs last night, scoring just two goals against a red-hot Tuukka Rask in those four games. The Penguins were completely outmatched, despite winning the Stanley Cup on paper after the trade deadline deals. However, despite the additions of Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow, and Douglas Murray, the Penguins were no match for the Bruins.
A lot of fans in Pittsburgh are calling for coach Dan Bylsma’s head, and it’s been rumored that there is tension between the coach and management. It does baffle me a bit, since Bylsma won a Cup in 2009 and went to the Conference Finals this year. They were out in the second round in 2010, and the first round in 2011 and 2012, but that should really paint a picture about how hard it is to win a Stanley Cup. It’s not really indicative of the coaching. But hey, that’s just my opinion. Also my opinion: These Pens –as constructed– were doomed to fail and if the Pens fire Bylsma, Slats should go running to Bylsma’s front door for an interview. He’s a great fit for New York.
Suit went through what the Rangers should look for in their next coach, and Bylsma has everything they are looking for. Bylsma runs aggressive systems, instructing his team to play a North/South game with creativity. Byslma believes in solid defensive play, but does not insist on the stifling measures Torts took with this team. He runs a solid power play, and if he had a goalie who didn’t actively avoid the puck, his teams would have been significantly better.
*-Let’s get one thing straight: These Penguin teams were doomed to fail. They didn’t have depth at forward. They didn’t have strong skating defensemen. They didn’t have a solid goaltender. You can’t win in the playoffs without these three components, especially against a deep Bruins team with a hot goalie.
If you’ve been reading our game previews before games against the Penguins, or at least our Hockey Systems page, you’ll know that Bylsma’s Penguins are incredibly similar to the Rangers. They play a 2-1-2 forecheck, and actively avoid trapping unless they have a huge lead. None of us want to see a trapping Rangers team. This game was meant to be an aggressive, go after the puck kind of game. The problem with the Pens is –and you saw it in the Bruins series– their backchecking was abysmal. Bylsma is not the type of coach to forget about back checking. That one is likely on the players.
In the defensive zone, the Penguins are a hybrid team. This is the key difference between Byslma and Tortorella, and the key area where he will make the largest impact. Bylsma had his Penguins –depending on puck location and situation– rotating between a strong side overload (when the puck is along the boards), a low zone collapse (when the puck is below the hash marks) and a strategy that is between low zone and man coverage when the puck is above the hash marks. That last strategy covered the point men and didn’t allow them time to walk in and shoot, but also covered the guys down low for rebounds, deflections, and shot blocking opportunities.
Bylsma is also a bit of a player’s coach, in the sense that he’s not a Tortorella type personality. He’s not gruff in interviews, but he knows where to draw the line. He’s the happy middle between Tortorella and Tom Renney in respects to their personalities.
Keep in mind, this is all dependent on the Penguins actually firing their coach, which I do not believe will happen. If that does happen, and I think the Penguins will be making a huge mistake if they do, then Bylsma vaults to my top choice for the Rangers head coaching vacancy. Alain Vigneault is my current top choice among available coaches, but he drops to #2 if Bylsma becomes available.