Dan Bylsma Takes Over after Penguins Fire Michel Therrien

Dino MoriAnalyst IFebruary 16, 2009

The slumping Pittsburgh Penguins have fired head coach Michel Therrien and replaced him on an interim basis with minor league coach Dan Bylsma.

Therrien was told of his fate by GM Ray Shero on Sunday night, a day after the Penguins lost 6-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It appears the Penguins players, runners-up in last year's Stanley Cup Finals under Therrien, grew tired of his disciplinarian coaching tactics.

Therrien, known for his lengthy, grueling practices, leaves after guiding the Penguins to a disappointing 27-25-5 record, five points out a conference playoff spot.

It's hard to fathom that the Penguins, with highly-skilled players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Petr Sykora, are in this predicament. But, injuries to their top two defensemen, Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney, and subpar goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury have put the Penguins in a precarious hole.

Therrien still has more than two years left on this $1-million-a-year contract, signed after he led them to a 47-win season and a berth in the Finals against Detroit.

He took over behind the Penguins bench back in December of 2005, when the club got rid of former NHL player Ed Olczyk.

The 38-year-old Bylsma, a one-time NHL winger with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, was coaching the Penguins affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton prior to his promotion. He served as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders in 2005-06.

It seems a little strange that the ownership in Pittsburgh, namely Mario Lemieux, would entrust a primarily green coach like Bylsma with the task of lighting a fire under his underachieving Penguins. Especially when there are proven NHL coaches out there, such as Pat Quinn, John Tortarella, and Peter Laviolette. 

It could be that the Penguins are taking a wait-and-see attitude with Bylsma before committing huge dollars to another more experienced coach, not forgetting that they still owe Therrien $2 million-plus on the remainder of his contract.

Bylsma will be put to the test right away as Pittsburgh visits Long Island this afternoon.