Not long ago, Dan Bylsma was the toast of the NHL’s coaching fraternity. A Stanley Cup winner. A Jack Adams Award recipient. The picture of composure, as portrayed by the storytellers at HBO.
Today, Bylsma was fired by the Pittsburgh Penguins, a star-studded team that underachieved in the last five postseasons under his guidance. There have been reports that he’d lost the room, and that his relationships with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had become frayed.
Bylsma was also the head coach of the United States Olympic team in Sochi, where the tournament started well for the Americans, only to end in disappointment and embarrassment. Soon after, U.S. captain Zach Parise had to make clear he wasn’t being critical of the coaching staff when he said the team played “passive.”
Yet another example of how quickly things can change in pro sports. (Meanwhile, Darryl Sutter, not long ago that clueless guy in Calgary, and Alain Vigneault, fired after last season by Vancouver, are coaching for the Stanley Cup.)
So, where does Bylsma go from here? Besides Pittsburgh, there are three coaching vacancies in the NHL -- Vancouver, Carolina, and Florida.
It’s hard to believe Bylsma won’t be a strong candidate to fill at least one of those vacancies. In fact, it’s possible all three teams will pursue him, and he might have to pick one.
One of the six teams that Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler was reportedly willing to be traded at the deadline was Pittsburgh. And that was after Kesler played for Bylsma in Sochi. Would hiring Bylsma, combined with a free-agent addition or two, convince Kesler to stay? Remember that new Canucks general manager Jim Benning thinks he can turn things around “in a hurry.” That wouldn’t be so easy without Kesler.
Or, might Bylsma prefer Carolina, where he’d be reunited with former Penguin Jordan Staal and US d-man Justin Faulk? The Hurricanes’ roster is hardly bereft of potential, even if the job wouldn’t be as high profile.
Florida can’t be completely discounted either. There’s young talent there, not to mention new ownership that’s promising to spend money to improve the roster. There’s also Roberto Luongo in goal, while Vancouver and Carolina are far less certain at that position.