New GM to decide coach Bylsma's fate



The Penguins will be getting a new general manager soon, and they just might have a new coach next season, too.

But at least for now, Dan Bylsma and his assistant coaches remain in the organization. And that won't change unless the next general manager tells them to leave.

The search for someone to succeed Ray Shero, who had been general manager since replacing Craig Patrick in 2006, already is underway, team officials said Friday.

Morehouse announces firing of Penguins GM Ray Shero

David Morehouse, on behalf of the Pittsburgh Penguins ownership, announces the firing of General Manager Ray Shero. Coach Dan Bylsma's fate rests with the new general manager. (Video By Doug Oster; 5/16/2014)

Fans react to Penguins firing Shero

Fans react to the firing of Penguins General Manager Ray Shero and to the possibility that Dan Bysma will be retained as head coach. (Video by Doug Oster; 5/16/2014)

Mr. Shero's assistant, Jason Botterill, will serve as interim GM and is the only publicly acknowledged candidate for the position. The Penguins, though, are believed to have spoken to several other teams seeking permission to speak with people under contract to them.

Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse, who announced Mr. Shero's firing Friday at a Consol Energy Center news conference, said team officials have a "specific time frame" for hiring a new general manager. He said the need to prepare for the 2014 NHL draft, set for June 27-28 in Philadelphia, will not accelerate the process.

"We're not going to rush it because of the draft," he said. "We think with Jason Botterill and with our scouting staff, and with [assistant to the general manager] Tom Fitzgerald, we have a group in place that can take care of us for the draft."

Mr. Shero, who assembled the final pieces of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup-winning team, was honored as the NHL's top general manager in 2013.

Despite Mr. Shero's accomplishments and his exceptional reputation around the National Hockey League, ownership concluded he should be the first staffer to pay with his job for a string of playoff disappointments.

The Penguins have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by lower-seeded opponents for five consecutive seasons, including a seven-game loss to the New York Rangers in a Round 2 series that ended Tuesday.

"Our ownership group, led by Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, felt it was time to move the franchise in a new direction," Mr. Morehouse said at a news conference. "Like our fans, they've been very disappointed with our early exits from the playoffs.

"They made this decision because we believe new leadership can help us get back on track and achieve our goal of winning the Stanley Cup."

Mr. Shero, through the Penguins, declined an interview request.

Neither Mr. Lemieux nor Mr. Burkle spoke during the news conference, although both met with newspaper columnists afterward.

Mr. Lemieux, speaking with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, made it clear that the next general manager "absolutely" will have the option of retaining Mr. Bylsma, who has two years remaining on his contract.

"That's why we didn't fire him," he said. "He's a good coach. You look at his record in the regular season, in the playoffs. If he was fired today, there'd be a lot of teams lined up for him.

"He's done a lot of good things for the organization and he's been a great asset. A new GM will come in, evaluate the hockey operation, and we'll go from there."

He said that while a general manager candidate would not fall from consideration simply because he made it known that he would like to bring in a different coach, "we would want to know why he didn't want [Mr. Bylsma]."

Mr. Bylsma received the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach in 2011 and led the Penguins to the Metropolitan Division championship this season, even though they lost a league-high 529 man-games to injury and illness.

But he has overseen a series of playoff failures by the Penguins since they won the Stanley Cup in 2009, and has become a lightning rod for criticism from much of the team's fan base.

Mr. Bylsma appeared to be in danger of being fired when Boston swept his team in the Eastern Conference final last year, but instead received a two-year contract extension from Mr. Shero.

He received another professional reprieve Friday, along with a strong show of support from the owners.

"It's too easy to blame it on the coach and throw the coach out and have the GM stay," Mr. Burkle said. "It's more complicated than that.

"As Mario said, Dan's done a lot of great things here and he's been a good coach."

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 16, 2014 9:17 AM

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