How Close to Hot Seat is Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma Entering 2013-14 Season?
Dan Bylsma saved the Pittsburgh Penguins when the team was struggling during the 2008-09 season, a campaign that culminated with the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship following the retirement of legend Mario Lemieux.
But since that memorable playoff run, Bylsma and his Penguins have failed to achieve much postseason success, despite having more talent than most of their opponents and home-ice advantage in every playoff series.
Will Pittsburgh reach the Stanley Cup Final next year?
In fact, Pittsburgh has advanced past the second round of the playoffs just once over the last four years. That postseason series was last year's Eastern Conference Final, where the Penguins scored just two goals and never led in a four-game sweep by the Boston Bruins.
Despite his team's disappointing playoff exits in recent years, Bylsma shouldn't be anywhere close to the hot seat going into 2013-14 because his performance should be judged on playoff success and not regular season results. Any potential coaching change decision should be made after the 2014 playoffs.
Bylsma was given a another chance to lead this team earlier in the summer when he signed a new two-year contract. He deserved to lead this team again because the lack of scoring production from his best players (two points in four games from the top-six forwards) was the primary reason why Pittsburgh was emphatically defeated by the Bruins in the conference finals.
Coaching wasn't a major problem for the Pens in last year's playoff run, evidenced by Bylsma's bold and successful decision to start Tomas Vokoun between the pipes instead of franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 4 in the first round.
Establishing stability behind the bench is a key component to all consistently successful franchises.
For example, Bruins head coach Claude Julien is the second-longest tenured bench boss in the Eastern Conference after joining the Original Six club in 2007. Even after some abysmal playoff exits (2010 East Semis, 2012 first round), the Bruins stuck with Julien, and the results have been positive (two Cup Final appearances with one championship).
Bylsma is a quality coach and would find another job quickly if he was fired in Pittsburgh. Coaches of his caliber are difficult to find, which is why the Penguins must continue to be patient with him.
Should Bylsma be on the hot seat to start the 2013-14 season?
Keeping this team among the upper-echelon in the East despite the fact that Crosby and Malkin have missed significant time due to injuries over the last three years is a fine example of his coaching abilities.
Even if the Penguins struggle to start the season, don't expect Bylsma to be in danger of losing his job. Since eight of their first nine games are against teams that missed the playoffs last year, the chances of Pittsburgh starting 2013-14 poorly are slim.
With that said, 2013-14 is a huge year for Bylsma.
He still has a championship-caliber roster, but the offseason departures of veterans such as Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray will require a exceptional coaching performance from the 42-year-old if Pittsburgh is going to accomplish its goals.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.
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