After yet another postseason disappointment that saw the Pittsburgh Penguins fail to reach the Eastern Conference Final, head coach general manager Ray Shero has been fired.
The Penguins confirmed the news on their official website while announcing the interim general manager:
Ray Shero has been relieved of his duties as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was announced today by co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle.
The search for a new general manager is already underway. ...
... Assistant general manager Jason Botterill will take over as interim general manager until a new GM is hired. Botterill, who will be a candidate for the GM position, will oversee the Penguins’ scouting staff as it prepares for the NHL draft.
Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle also released a statement, courtesy of the team's official website:
Ray is a good person who made a positive impact on the Penguins and the Pittsburgh community. We thank him for his contributions to our organization, and especially for his key role with our 2009 Stanley Cup championship team. We wish all the best for him and his family. ...
... We feel it is time to move our franchise in a new direction. We share the disappointment of our fans that we have not had success in the playoffs over the past five seasons. We believe that new leadership in the general manager’s office will bring a new approach and new energy, and help us return to championship form.
Though it was rumored that head coach Dan Bylsma would be fired along with Shero, the team says his status will undergo further evaluation, per NBC Sports. ESPN's Craig Custance provides a statement from David Morehouse, Penguins President and Chief Executive Officer, discussing Bylsma's status within the organization:
Morehouse makes it clear: "We have not fired Dan Bylsma."— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) May 16, 2014
Morehouse: I have complete confidence if Dan is indeed not the coach here, he'll be quickly picked up somewhere else. He's a great coach.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) May 16, 2014
TSN's Bob McKenzie originally reported that both Shero and Bylsma would be fired:
PIT will announce this morning GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma have been fired. #TSN— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 16, 2014
The Pens boast arguably the two best players in the world in the form of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but they haven't won the Stanley Cup or even reached the Stanley Cup Final since the 2008-09 season.
NHL on TSN provides historical context surrounding Bylsma's tenure with the Penguins:
Pittsburgh fell to the New York Rangers in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference semifinals this week, blowing a 3-1 series lead in the process.
Because of the Penguins' recent struggles, rumors made the rounds regarding a potential rift between Crosby and Bylsma. Pittsburgh's captain denied that he had any issues with his coach, however, per Chris Peters of CBSSports.com via PensTV:
You're going to hear a lot of that stuff and a lot of negativity and different rumors, so that's normal when you lose. There's always people looking for reasons, but there wasn't that. If we win that game, we wouldn't even have to answer these questions. But that's the difference between winning and losing and having to deal with that.
Additionally, Crosby offered a vote of confidence in favor of Bylsma when asked about the possibility of a coaching change Thursday:
Honestly, I don't think it's necessary. It's not something that's happened and I don't feel like I need to talk about (making a coaching change) right now. I'm not going to predict the future, I don't know what's going to happen. I'm well aware of all the questions, but we're in this together, whether it's coaches or players.
Despite the superstar's feeling on the matter, Penguins brass obviously felt as though it was time to make a change. Daniel Friedman of WFAN originally agreed with the reported decision to terminate Bylsma, but he wasn't convinced that Shero deserved the same fate:
Firing Dan Bylsma makes sense -- it was time. Firing Ray Shero, on the other hand, is a ginormous mistake in my honest opinion. #Pens— Daniel Friedman (@DFriedmanOnNYI) May 16, 2014
The general manager has to take some measure of responsibility when it comes to on-ice success (or lack thereof), but there is no denying the fact that Shero built an extremely talented team.
With that said, Mark Madden of WXDX-FM feels as though Shero's unwavering confidence in Bylsma was a mistake for which he needed to pay:
It looks like Shero is gone, as well as Bylsma. That's as it should be. Shero hitched his wagon 2Bylsma last year, &they drove off a cliff.— Mark Madden (@MarkMaddenX) May 16, 2014
Despite Shero's inability to win it all in recent years, he should be a hot candidate for teams that are searching for somebody in a front-office role. The same could be said for Bylsma if he were to be relieved of his duties by the Penguins in the future.
McKenzie is reporting Shero could go to one of the team's chief rivals:
PIT assistant GM Jason Botterill likely to take over on an interim basis. Shero likely to immediately become frontrunner for GM job in WSH.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 16, 2014
What should the Penguins have done with Bylsma and Shero?
There is no question the Penguins had to make some organizational changes in order to show the fans that they are committed to winning it all next year and beyond. The roster stacks up with any other team in the league, and having a player like Crosby means the Pens are always going to be in the mix.
A new voice and new pair of eyes in the press box to evaluate talent could go a long way for Pittsburgh.
These types of tweaks can go a long way for teams in terms of making them champions, and Penguins fans are hopeful that this is what the doctor ordered for their franchise.
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