Q: I would like to think that general manager Ray Shero will take the "interim" label off of the "head coach" title Dan Bylsma holds, given the success the Penguins have had since he was chosen to replace Michel Therrien. The team has really responded well to Bylsma's coaching style and he seems to have developed a special chemistry with the players. What else is Shero looking for? Are there any indications that he plans to keep Bylsma, and do you think he should name him (the permanent) coach before their first playoff game?
Brian Hampton, Gaithersburg, Md.
MOLINARI: While the impact of Shero's pre-trade deadline personnel additions -- Chris Kunitz, Bill Guerin and Craig Adams -- cannot be overstated, neither can the impact that Bylsma has had since taking over behind the bench.
Although it's not unusual for a team to have a spurt after a coaching change, the Penguins' 12-2-3 record under Bylsma before they faced Calgary last night qualifies as a trend. While that's not a pace they can be expected to maintain indefinitely, there's nothing fluky about that mark. Players not only have responded well to Bylsma's more player-friendly approach and emphasis on teaching, but to the up-tempo style of play he has introduced.
But despite all the positives fact is, it's hard to come up with any significant negatives -- associated with Bylsma's time here, there is no reason to strip the "interim" from his title just yet. There is no indication that his authority is being undermined because he hasn't been given the job permanently yet, and it wouldn't be prudent for Shero to make a major commitment to a guy with less than a quarter-season of NHL coaching experience to his credit. (The Penguins already will be paying Therrien for two more years. It would be nice if the next coach they hire is still on the job when they finally stop issuing checks to his predecessor.) Now, it's possible that Shero already has decided that Bylsma is (or, for that matter, isn't) the best choice to lead this team in coming seasons, and that he's simply waiting for an opportune time to make the appointment official. More likely, though, he wants to see a little more from Bylsma -- like, say, how he handles significant adversity, since the Penguins haven't experienced any since he took over -- before finalizing anything.
As impressive as Bylsma's work has been so far, he probably hasn't soared to the top of the wish list for most teams that might be in the market for a coach this summer, so Shero shouldn't have any trouble selling him on the idea of staying with the Penguins if that is the route he elects to follow.
Q: What happens if both of a team's goaltenders are injured during a game?
MOLINARI: Most likely, the team in question loses. Badly.
Because tending goal is such specialized -- and, particularly for those who aren't familiar with its finer points, potentially dangerous -- work, NHL regulations allow teams to "dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible" if its two regular goaltenders are incapacitated.
That includes everything from using a goalie who happens to be part of the organization but isn't in uniform that night to, in an extreme case, taking a fan who happens to play the position out of the seats and putting him into the game. (Assuming he's interested in participating in an event he paid to watch, of course.)