The Penguins and their fan base are beginning to digest the hard truths of the team's stunning departure from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Those have to be going down like a heaping bowl of broken glass.
Inside the team offices, it is a time for thoughtful assessments of all that went wrong in the Penguins' furious plunge into the offseason, and how best to fix them.
Outside of Consol Energy Center, however, the discussions aren't always so measured.
There are places where nothing less than a complete house-cleaning -- followed by a house demolition -- could begin to suffice as a response to the Penguins' pratfall in the Eastern Conference final.
But only after a human sacrifice or two to set the proper tone.
Based on a cursory foray into cyberspace Saturday, some segments of the public are ready -- if not downright eager -- to volunteer coach Dan Bylsma for one of those.
And not without reason.
Bylsma, like most coaches, preaches accountability, and when NHL teams underachieve, the head coach generally doesn't have to accept responsibility. Others are quick to heap it on him.
Certainly, there is much blame to be shouldered after Boston, a decided underdog, ran the Penguins out of the Eastern final in four games. The Bruins held the NHL's most prolific offense to two goals in four games. Neutered the league's most menacing power play. Exposed and exploited flaws in defensive coverages.
Bylsma's players are culpable for some of that, of course. Bylsma didn't tell them to score on two of 136 shots against Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. He didn't instruct them to turn the puck over at every opportunity in the travesty that was Game 2.
Replacing Bylsma, believed to have a year left on his contract, is an option general manager Ray Shero likely has contemplated, at the very least, even though he has said nothing publicly on the subject.
Shero's history says he is not given to emotion-driven judgments. He evaluates personnel matters carefully and acts only when satisfied that all pertinent information has been considered.
But ever as facts and circumstances change, one thing doesn't: The organization's stated objective every year is to win the Stanley Cup. And the Penguins haven't done it since 2009.
What's more, their past four playoff exits have been orchestrated by teams that finished below them in the regular-season standings.
That happens all the time in hockey, of course. Whether it should happen to a team annually is another matter.
At the same time, nothing that transpired the past four springs can -- or ever will -- erase the simple reality that Bylsma was behind the Penguins' bench when they won that Cup in 2009, a few months after he succeeded Michel Therrien.
So much for any argument that the Penguins can't win a championship with him as coach. The real question is whether he is capable of doing it again, at least with this franchise.
While firing a coach -- especially one whose popularity seems slightly lower than that of pink eye -- is easy, that doesn't automatically make it the right move to make.
The most important facet of a potential coaching change is not who gets fired, but who takes on the job.
If it's the right guy, as Bylsma was four years ago, he can catapult an organization forward.
If it's not, games -- and, more important for the Penguins, precious time -- can be lost before the mistake is realized.
If Shero concludes he needs a new coach, he has to make certain he picks wisely, whether he goes for Dave Tippett (should he go on the market), John Hynes, Dallas Eakins, Alain Vigneault or anyone else.
Not necessarily the right guy for the Penguins as they are constituted today, because major personnel turnover is coming for this club, but for the team Shero expects to have in training camp this fall.
Someone whose philosophy of team-building and strategy meshes with that of upper management, and who Shero is certain can take this team where it hasn't gotten the past four years.
If that's Bylsma, Shero should let him -- and the world -- know as soon as possible, and move on to other matters, because there are many.
While the fates of assistant coaches Tony Granato and Todd Reirden seem linked directly to that of Bylsma, goalie coach Gilles Meloche might be a separate case.
He was a terrific goaltender on some terrible teams in his playing days, and his knowledge of the position -- and the minds of the men who play it -- is outstanding.
Meloche is diligent and appears to have an excellent relationship with Marc-Andre Fleury, who remains, at least for now, the Penguins' franchise goalie.
But it's conceivable Meloche has taken Fleury as far as he can, that Fleury needs a new voice to guide him, a new hand to help shape his style and on-ice habits.
If Shero thinks Fleury remains the team's goalie of the future, giving him a different mentor has to be considered as a way to get Fleury to consistently perform to his potential, particularly in the playoffs.
Shero, while charged with sculpting the Penguins' future, cannot be absolved of responsibility for what happened to them in the past week.
The moves he made before the trade deadline, bringing in Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jussi Jokinen, were lavishly praised. Some observers felt they all but guaranteed a Cup for the Penguins.
Didn't quite work out that way.
Shero's two most celebrated additions, Iginla and Morrow, added all the character and leadership and other intangibles the Penguins expected, but neither consistently had the anticipated on-ice impact.
Even when Iginla was putting up a point per game, he wasn't the force many envisioned, and he was invisible in the Boston series. Morrow ultimately settled on the fourth line, Murray is a third-pairing defenseman and Jokinen spent about half the playoffs in street clothes.
Not the return the Penguins were counting on when they gave up a good prospect (Joe Morrow) and a fistful of early round draft choices to bolster their roster for the playoffs.
Iginla, Morrow and Murray will be unrestricted free agents this summer, as will Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams and Mark Eaton, while Tyler Kennedy and Dustin Jeffrey will be restricted.
CapGeek.com, a leading authority on NHL salary issues, says the Penguins have $56,423,333 in cap space committed to 18 players for 2013-14. The cap ceiling then will be $64.3 million, far below what it would have to be for Shero to retain more than a few of his free-agents-to-be.
He will have to decide whether to let most of them walk, or to open some cap space by dealing players still under contract.
Those determinations will be influenced by which prospects the Penguins feel are ready to move into the NHL. Their talent pipeline is flush with defensemen, but almost bereft of quality forwards.
Shero might get a few players to stay for less than market value, because being comfortable in an organization that's a constant threat to challenge for a Cup can mean more than a bit of extra money.
And it's critical to remember that whatever the Penguins do -- or don't do -- this summer, it will be with the intent of competing for a championship next spring.
The standards and expectations of this organization aren't going to change. Nor should they.
And if Shero makes the right moves in an offseason that arrived several weeks too early, there won't be any reason for them to.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published June 9, 2013 4:00 AM