Question: I need to vent about the firing of Michel Therrien. I don't think it was needed; he just got the Penguins to the Stanley Cup final and signed a three-year contract. I understand that the expectations are now very high, but this is still a young team. I think this team has multiple things going on, as far as, injuries from Day 1, the lack of a scoring winger alongside Sidney Crosby, and some toughness. Mike should have at least been given to the end of the season to decide his fate.
Michael Walther, Shirley, N.Y.
MOLINARI: Therrien did a lot of good things during his three-plus seasons as coach. He introduced badly needed structure and discipline and, while some of his methods were perplexing -- his penchant for breaking up line combinations when they didn't mesh almost instantly, for example -- the organization is better for him having been part of it.
Just about every coach has a limited shelf life -- all of them except Barry Trotz and Lindy Ruff, anyway -- but it's clear that the idea of replacing Therrien is something that came along relatively recently.
Certainly, general manager Ray Shero didn't expect to be doing it t his quickly when he worked out that contract with Therrien last summer.
As was noted in a Q&A that never made it online because of the coaching change, the Penguins had reached a point where either the messenger or some of the guys who receive the message had to be changed, because the message wasn't getting through anymore. A few of those recipients still might be working elsewhere when the March 4 trade deadline arrives, but Shero obviously concluded that with less than a third of the season remaining, the Penguins' hopes of getting back into contention for a playoff berth hinged on making the coaching switch immediately.
Question: Wow. Firing Therrien is not very Shero-like. As has been well-documented, Shero is very patient and methodical in his decisions.
This smells like desperation with only 25 games left in the season. Was he forced to do this by others in the organization?
Jeff Young, New York City
MOLINARI: There's no evidence of that, but it's pretty well-known that management was budgeting for the revenues from a playoff round, so some pretty powerful people are going to be unhappy if the Penguins fail to qualify.
Still, it's tough to accuse Shero of acting in haste here. Remember, the Penguins haven't won more than two games in a row since mid-November, and are on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff field. A pretty good cas e could be made, in fact, that Shero might have waited too long to see what effect a coaching change could have, because the Penguins have a pretty large gap to close in less than two months.
Question: With Dan Bylsma now coaching the Pens, is there any chance of seeing a scoring winger like Janne Pesonen getting a chance on Sidney Crosby's wing? He has the speed, hands and vision. Therien just would not play a rookie on the top line.
Jim Reuss, State College
MOLINARI: Therrien's refusal to use Pesonon in a top-six role during his brief stops in the NHL has been criticized repeatedly in this space, and remains one of the most perplexing moves of the Therrien era. Why he soured on the guy so quickly and thoroughly that he never used him in a scoring role, when that is what the Penguins were hoping to get from Pesonen when they signed him as a free agent last summer, remains a mystery.
One would think, though, that anyone in Wilkes-Barre who is remotely qualified to contribute at this level will get an opportunity to prove it when injuries and slumps create the need to fill jobs in the NHL, because no one in the organization should be as well-versed as Bylsma on the merits and minuses of the players from the Baby Penguins.
Question: Why not hire Mike Yeo instead of Bylsma?
Ryan Kessler, Philadelphia
MOLINARI: Funny, but there were far more readers who wondered if Yeo had been fired -- he wasn't -- than why he had been passed over for the top job.
There are a couple of factors that probably made Shero turn to Bylsma once it was determined that the job would be filled on an interim basis. Bringing in a fresh face and voice should be a plus, since it's possible that players had begun to tune out Therrien and his staff after listening to those guys for more than three years, and Bylsma has the benefit of at least a half-season of head-coaching experience, which is something that doesn't show up on Yeo's resume. (Or that of the other holdover, goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, for that matter.)