The Search: Who Will Be Coaching the Pittsburgh Penguins Next Season?

Jeffery StonerCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2009

Since Michel Therrien was fired last February, there have been many names rumored for the job. Dan Bylsma was hired on an interim basis, but his 9-1-2 record has made a pretty convincing case to remove the “interim” from his head coaching title.

Still, as 12 games are not enough to make any conclusions, here is a look at some of the potential candidates.

Brent Peterson

Currently: Nashville Assistant Coach

Why it might happen: Peterson is supposedly liked by General Manager Ray Shero. They served together in Nashville when Shero was the assistant GM. 

Why it won’t work: Peterson has never been an NHL head coach. Although he has been rumored for several positions, it doesn’t seem that offers anything that Bylsma doesn’t. If Bylsma doesn’t keep the job, it’s hard for Shero to justify Peterson instead of Bylsma unless there is a late-season implosion. 

Pat Quinn

Currently:  Most recently Coach of Team Canada in World Juniors

Why it might happen:  Quinn certainly fits the bill of an experienced NHL head coach.  He has 749 career NHL wins, including 92 wins in 15 playoff appearances. Quinn twice coached in the Stanley Cup Finals, falling short of a cup each time.

He also has coached to an Olympic, World Cup, and World Junior gold medal. He coached under Shero’s father, Fred, in Philadelphia, and would probably be the biggest name available.

Quinn can be selective with circumstances if he wants to come back to the NHL, a team with an unlimited ceiling, a current contender, and a place where Quinn is comfortable with ownership and management might be a perfect combination. Quinn was rumored to be the next coach leading up to the firing of Therrien.

Why it won’t workNothing has been disclosed, but Quinn may have already turned down the job. If that happened, it is doubtful anything has changed. If not, it still might not work as Shero has suggested that he want a coach to grow with his young team.  Quinn may be the best answer for “right now”, but maybe not for the future.

Tom Renney

Currently: Unemployed–just fired by the New York Rangers

Why it might happen: He was 159-106-42 with the Rangers after the lockout, and made the play-offs each season. He was also the Canadian Olympic head coach for the 1994 Lillehammer games, where he led Canada to the silver medal. Is a proven winner, and can handle high profile talent.

Why it won’t work: There are simply too many hard feelings between the Rangers and Penguins over the past three seasons for him to have credibility in the clubhouse. Renney will catch on somewhere, but it doesn’t seem to make sense in Western Pennsylvania. 

Dan Bylsma

Currently: Penguins interim coach

Why it might happen:  The success after taking over for Michel Therrien has made him a fan favorite for the job. His laissez-faire approach to letting the playmakers operate and his emphasis on puck control paid immediate dividends with the Penguins.

His year as the Head Coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton gives him a familiarity with the upcoming players likely to be in key roles next year if the NHL salary cap is drastically reduced.

Why it won’t work:  Bylsma’s success might only be due to taking the handcuffs off a talented team that Therrien had stifled. If this is the case, how will he react in a slump? The Penguins might prefer a veteran coach who has a demonstrated ability to relate to superstars, and has been through good and bad stretched before.

Todd Richards

Currently: San Jose assistant coach

Why it might happen: He is a top candidate around the league for a head-coaching job, which will increase if the Sharks can make a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring. He coached in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a couple off years, and has familiarity with the Penguins organization.

He also worked with Shero when Richards coached the Milwaukee Admirals, the AHL affiliate for the Predators. 

Why it won’t work: See Brent Peterson above. It’s hard to make an argument for Peterson that doesn’t also apply to Bylsma.

Pierre McGuire

Currently: Analyst for TSN and NBC

Why it might happen: Another guy who is close with Shero, dating back to when both were with Ottawa.  He was also an assistant on Pittsburgh’s two Stanley Cup teams in 1990-91 and 1991-92.

Those teams were lead by current owner Mario Lemieux.  He was a head coach for the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94, and has reportedly expressed an interest in getting behind the bench again.

Why it won’t work: The players would be incredibly confused when he calls a timeout in a game at New Jersey, and spends 60 seconds talking about the Red Wings.

Obviously, the whole conversation is premature. If Bylsma wins a round in the playoffs, he will likely be given the job full-time. However, it might tell the Pittsburgh management a little more if he has to struggle to get there, rather than riding a hot team all the way.

After Shero's moves the last two trade deadlines, he seems to have a very good handle on what the team needs. Hopefully for Penguin fans, two years of timely personnel moves aren't destroyed by the incorrect call here.