5/16/14: Three Thoughts – Bye Shero, Element of Weirdness, ? Bylsma?

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

In a turn of events that literally no one saw coming (even forcing TSN’s Bob McKenzie to be wrong for maybe the first time ever), the Penguins have fired General Manager Ray Shero and retained the entire coaching staff *for now*. Jason Botterill will become the interim GM and will be a candidate for the new GM position. Whenever the new GM is hired, that person will be in charge of deciding everything about hockey operations, including the fate of the current coaching staff.


Thought #1: Bye Bye Shero

There was no question that Ray Shero was on the hot seat as we’ve heard plenty about the weak drafts, the failure to provide depth for the team, and going “all-in” without success. In the end, that was apparently too much for ownership to be okay with. As I write this, I’ve already seen two Caps blogs say they do not want Shero because of his drafting history. Countless other decent hockey minds have said Shero is a bigger problem than Bylsma (though, I do not believe that personally).

Either way, he wasn’t getting his job done when it came to providing a good supporting cast for Crosby and Malkin to win another Stanley Cup with.

I do wonder if he was completely loyal to Bylsma and their plan, and perhaps refused to fire him, which then required his own firing.

Regardless, he did an excellent job as Craig Patrick’s replacement and brought another Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh, so he will likely be remembered very fondly here. All good things come to an end…

As for Bylsma…

Thought #2: Element of Weirdness with Ownership

We’ll never know the full picture, only the comments leaked from sources and the limited information provided in interviews.

However, it is certainly interesting that at this time last year, ownership was talking to Shero about whether the coaching staff should be retained. As we know, the decision was to retain (and extend) Dan Bylsma’s contract at the time. By all accounts, Shero “hitched his wagon” to Bylsma at that point.

A year later, ownership was talking without Shero, apparently about the decision to not retain (and fire) Ray Shero. After that move, it would have logically followed to fire Bylsma as well based on last year’s discussions and everything that was leaked over the past few days.

It’s hard to believe that ownership backs Dan Bylsma right now.

There are good reasons for them to be patient with this decision though. Giving the next GM full autonomy over hockey operations will be an immediate vote of confidence and a good start to the relationship there. Also, there are a ton of good hockey minds outside of Pittsburgh that suggest Shero was the problem more than Bylsma, so perhaps there is something to that. Of course, the Penguins are keeping Bylsma from a couple of rivals right now by holding on to him in the meantime too.

However, there is an “element of weirdness” (Thanks Dejan) in everything now. The hiring process is awkward. It isn’t just to hire a GM that fits the role best and has a good plan. Now the questions supposedly must involve how Dan Bylsma and his staff will fit in along with whoever fits the role best and has a good plan.

Is ownership going to look at candidates objectively as they discuss Dan Bylsma? The same ownership that has questioned him for the past two years? Personally, I feel Bylsma’s retention (for now) just clouds the process more than it should.


Maybe ownership is okay with another year or partial year of Bylsma. Bylsma knows how to succeed in the regular season. Can the right GM get him the right roster to win in the playoffs again?  Can they just hold off on this until Bylsma’s contract runs out and they can go after Babcock or someone else?

I’m *guessing* that isn’t the actual plan.

Of course, the other thing that has made this weird for all of us is the expectations we all had for this day.  Going into today, it was 100% Fire Bylsma, 50/50 Fire Shero.  This morning, it was 100% Fire Bylsma, 100% Fire Shero.  Now, it turned out to be ? Fire Bylsma, 100% Fire Shero.  If you step away from your previous expectations, there is actually some logic in this.

Thought #3: So What’s Next for Bylsma?

For as weird as we may think all of this is, it has to be the weirdest of all for Dan Bylsma and his entire staff. They are currently stuck in purgatory. They have an interim GM to report to, do not know if they will be retained next year, and can’t look for another team yet either. Right now, Carolina, Florida, Washington, and Vancouver are looking for coaches. The longer this plays out, the likelier that those vacancies get filled, especially with coaches such as Barry Trotz available.

Of course, as those positions get filled, the amount of quality candidates for the Penguins will drop too.

Could Bylsma stay for the rest of his contract? He’s a good coach; everyone has said that countless times in the past few days. He’ll get this team through the regular season without a problem. But if the team started to tune him out last season, it will just get worse

There’s a tiny chance that a new GM will come in, give Bylsma some depth, and create the perfect team to make another Stanley Cup run.

There’s a gigantic chance that the new GM will come in and promptly fire the coaching staff.

For the sake of professionalism and business courtesy, I hope your wait is not long, HCDB, though at least you get paid this upcoming year no matter what.

It looks like the teams that may want to pick you up immediately (Washington and Vancouver specifically) will have to look elsewhere or make a risky decision to wait and see. Perhaps that is also in play. It might not be the most courteous thing to do for Bylsma, but seeing how the Penguins are paying him this year, it’s surely their right to do it.

For the sake of the Penguins’ coaching options though, I hope our wait is not long either.


Thanks as always for reading!  Make sure you check out the massive offseason roundtable we just posted, featuring several writers and bloggers around Pittsburgh:  Part I discusses Bylsma and Shero.  Part II discusses the players and free agents.