Guerin doing what he does best in his role as development coach


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Bill Guerin was holding court with reporters Wednesday in the locker room.

Just like old times.

Midway through a question about the Penguins' search for a top-six forward, probably a winger for Sidney Crosby, Guerin butted in with a deadpan answer that cracked everyone up.

Just like old times.

"I'm retired," said Guerin, who flanked Crosby on the club's 2009 Stanley Cup team.

Guerin, 41, isn't the answer as the Penguins look to plug a final couple of spots on the roster, but he's digging his role with the team that held an emotional retirement ceremony for him in December 2010.

"I love my job," said Guerin, who is working his second development camp after being named development coach in June 2011.

"It's great. I love dealing with the young players. It's keeping me involved, keeping me in the dressing room. I get to go to Wilkes-Barre [in the American Hockey League] and have a good relationship with the guys down there, travel around to see our other prospects that are in college and junior, too. Just trying to help them out. I love doing that.

"I liked doing that as an older player, helping guys out. Right now it's the perfect job for me."

Perhaps this will lead him to a more conventional coaching career. Or into management. Guerin isn't willing to look ahead.

"I haven't figured out what I'm going to do tomorrow, never mind the next 20 years," he said. "I know I want to stay in the game."

Guerin works closely with assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. A season into the job, he has established an identity with the organization's young players that is different from their behind-the-bench coaches.

"I help them," he said. "I can talk to the guys a little more player-to-player than the coaches can. It's a different dynamic. I'm not the one chewing them out. I'm not the one sitting them down in my office every day.

"It's a different relationship, but I think it's an important one for a guy to have. Sometimes if you're struggling or if you're trying to figure something out, the best thing is to have somebody to talk to. I'm that guy."

It's not hard for Guerin to relate to the prospects. He's got the personality for it -- his hockey mind, his wit and his elbow are equally sharp -- and he can remember what it was like as a young player.

Guerin broke into the NHL with New Jersey after the Devils made him the fifth overall pick in the 1989 draft. By the time he was finished, he had also played for Edmonton, Boston, Dallas, St. Louis, San Jose, the New York Islanders and, finally, the Penguins. While chugging toward 429 goals and 856 points over 1,263 games, he picked up a reputation for being savvy, funny and a leader.

He got to that point without the benefit early on from any development camps or development coaches, which only recently have become popular in the NHL.

"We didn't have that at all," Guerin said. "I wish I had it. I needed somebody to hold my hand for a little while. You relied on older players. You relied on the coaching staff. And you had to figure a lot of things out."

At this year's development camp, Guerin is on the ice helping to run drills and offering pointers. He's around off the ice as a mentor, too.

One of the 32 prospects, 2010 first-round draft pick Beau Bennett, could get a look on Crosby's wing during training camp, according to coach Dan Bylsma.

"He's a guy that finds open ice," Guerin said of Bennett. "He's got a great shot, good hands, good release, things like that. He'd be able to make the skill play to get Sid the puck. So it would be a nice match."

Another possibility is Coyotes captain and unrestricted free agent Shane Doan. There is mutual interest in Doan signing with the Penguins, but he has extended his original deadline by a week, until Monday, for the ownership situation in Phoenix to stabilize before he considers other options.

"I don't know what's happening there, but any team with Shane Doan on it is a better team," Guerin said. "The guy's a proven leader. He's a warrior. He'd be a nice fit for us, too."

Doan would add skill and grit, but there has been some question of whether Doan's skating is good enough to keep up with Crosby.

"Oh, yeah. Absolutely," Guerin said, then smiled.

"If I could, he can. I don't know if Sid would agree that I kept up with him ... "

NOTES -- Former Penguins player and coach Ed Olczyk was named to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2012. ... The Penguins re-signed Keven Veilleux to a two-way, one-year contract worth $525,000 at the NHL level. Veilleux, a second-round draft pick in 2007, is a hulking, skilled winger who had added a physical edge before a knee injury wiped out all of his 2011-12 season. He is rehabilitating in Pittsburgh this summer. ... Defenseman Carl Sneep, whose extension was reported a day earlier, got the same terms as Veilleux.

Looking ahead

What: Prospect Camp-ending scrimmage, Consol Energy Center.

When: 3 p.m. Saturday.

The skinny: The scrimmage is free and open to the public.

penguins

For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published July 12, 2012 4:00 AM


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