To fully appreciate Ray Shero’s decision to extend the contracts of Dan Bylsma and his assistant coaches, Tony Granato and Todd Reirden, one must first understand
where Shero was coming from in making such an evaluation.
This wasn’t a referendum on the Boston series.
No one was happy about that, not Mario Lemieux, Shero, Bylsma, the players, nobody.
Nor was this an acknowledgment that the players like Bylsma and vice versa, because Shero really doesn’t care a great deal about that.
This was more an affirmation of Bylsma’s body of work and the manner in which he’s complied the longest running and most successful coaching tenure in franchise history.
“When I came here seven years ago one of the things I wanted to do was establish a tradition of trying to be a playoff team every year and build upon that,” Shero explained. “Over the course of the seven years through great ownership in Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle we’ve been able to establish something very special here.
“My vision moving forward in evaluating our team, our coaches; the direction I want to go with this franchise is I really believe we have a great head coach in Dan Bylsma. I
believe he’s the coach to lead us forward.”
Shero believes that for a number of reasons and elaborated extensively during a stint behind the microphone at CONSOL Energy Center that lasted for approximately 57 minutes.
Clearly, he appreciates stability and continuity, qualities that have been in short supply throughout most of the organization’s tenure.
“Looking back on the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s not been too kind to coaches,” Shero pointed out. “It doesn’t reflect what my vision is for the team.”
But beyond that, Shero has an idea of how he wants the parts he acquires to function as a team.
Admittedly lacking the coaching acumen of his Stanley Cup-winning father, Fred Shero, Ray Shero went directly to the source in trying to determine how his players were being
coached, how they’d been coached in other NHL destinations, and if Bylsma’s vision of Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Hockey was really what was best for the franchise.
The resounding respect for Bylsma and his staff and their methods confirmed what Shero already suspected.
“I learned a lot," he said, “I really did.”
Shero still doesn’t know what they hell happened in Game 2 against Boston. But he knows enough to know this isn’t about “adjustments” or any other catch-all characterization those demanding Bylsma’s head on a stick have spewed out in search of identifying someone to blame.
Even in defeat at the hands of the Bruins, that respect Bylsma has earned in the locker
room means everything.
Because if you don’t have that they just won’t play for you, and if they won’t play for you it doesn’t matter how well you can coach.
Ask Mike Therrien.
Also influencing Shero’s steadfast backing of his coach and Shero’s unshakable belief in his organization was the way that team the Penguins recently battled for the Stanley Cup twice in two seasons has been going about its business.
“I look at the Detroit Red Wings, I think they’re a model franchise,” Shero said. “They have a belief in what they do. They probably have the best general manager in the league in Kenny Holland. They have great payers and they have a coach they believe in, Mike Babcock.
“And they don’t get there every year. But you know what? Kenny Holland and their ownership group believe in what they’re doing and I believe the same.”
Bylsma, by the way, has a better regular-season winning percentage than Babcock (.630-.569) since Bylsma was promoted to the Penguins’ bench in February of 2009 (both are 35-29 in the playoffs since then).
That doesn’t make the sweep at the hands of the Bruins any less painful.
But in reaching the NHL’s Final Four the Penguins nonetheless fulfilled the requirements outlined by the organization’s Mission Statement.
It reads as follows:
“Our Mission: To compete for the Stanley Cup, energize and inspire our fans, positively impact our community, and advance the game of hockey.”
To get to the Final Two next season, to get their hands on another Cup, the Pens are going to have to get better.
That goes for Shero, Bylsma and players who “gotta be part of the responsibility,” Shero said.
But the GM believes in all involved.
The word he chose to express that belief was “faith.”
In maintaining that, Shero has nudged the organization into taking its initial steps toward that end again.