Penguins fans, I am pleased to announce that the day has finally come.
Today, February 15, 2009, Michel Therrien was officially removed from his duty as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
During this season, the Penguins have maintained the top two scorers in the NHL and one of the more talented young goaltenders. Despite this they were five points out of the playoffs and looked lost.
The game on February 14th against the Leafs symbolized what Therrien brought to the table for this franchise. The Penguins came in strong, with momentum from a win against arguably the best team in hockey, the San Jose Sharks.
With this momentum, and the fact that Toronto Maple Leaf goaltender Vesa Toskala is the worst in save percentage in the NHL, the Penguins jumped out to a two-goal lead.
This occurred early enough in the first period that it looked like Toronto was outmatched and the Penguins would pull away with the game. From that point on, however, the Penguins played a brand of hockey that seems to have become the signature during Therrien's tenure.
That is, sloppy, unmotivated hockey.
That is in fact what Therrien himself has said after every loss in his career, but it appears he has done nothing to fix this.
As the sloppiness was reaching its peak Therrien fell back on his usually strategy in times of trouble, playing guess the winger with the forward lines and using overall poor strategy.
By the end of the game, only two players had not played a different position then they were assigned at the start of the game, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury.
I have already had the debate about the 1-2-2 trap strategy and why it is wrong for the Penguins, but that is what Therrien went to when the chips were down, and that is (in part) what lead to six unanswered goals. That is inexcusable.
Let us forget that Toronto is one of the bottom teams in the Eastern Conference and will likely be in the race for worst team in the league by the end of the season, no team, under any circumstances, should score six unanswered goals.
This is especially infuriating when you consider that Marc-Andre Fleury was having an incredible game in goal. He had saves that, at times, defies logic, but still six goals were allowed.
This is due mostly to the Leafs maintaining possession in the offensive zone for almost the entire second period and half of the third. The Leafs' forwards were directly in front of the net creating situations where Fleury literally could not prevent goals.
The team could truly be best described as unmotivated. There is one man whose job it is, above all others, to get a team prepared for a contest, and that includes providing any necessary motivation. That man is the head coach of said team.
Sometimes a coach will have to stretch and work to find ways to keep their team focused and motivated, but in the case of Therrien his team is in the playoff hunt, fighting for a chance to qualify, and playing their best hockey of the year only one game earlier.
Apparently, Therrien needed more than that to get a team prepared, and that is why he was fired.
In his place will be the, now former, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) head coach Dan Bylsma. Last year as an assistant coach he lead the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to the Calder Cup Finals. This year as the head coach, he has the Baby Penguins in good position with a record of 35-16-1-2.
You may or may not agree with this decision, but I for one am glad to say now that Michel Therrien was fired, it is now truly a great day for hockey!