New Penguins coach needs ability to adjust



New Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford likely doesn't know who will be replacing Dan Bylsma as coach.

But, after being introduced as Ray Shero's successor Friday, Rutherford said he has a couple of "short lists" of candidates -- one bearing three names, the other six -- and stressed several times that the Penguins' next coach must possess at least one quality.

"We're going to have to have a coach who can make the proper adjustments during a game, or during a certain period of time in the regular season, or during a playoff series," he said.

"Obviously, the Penguins can score and they can go and they can score in bunches, but, based on looking at the Penguins from a distance, because that's where I was, I don't think they could make the proper adjustments against certain teams."

Bylsma's ability/willingness to make adjustments and his general lack of emphasis on trying to get favorable personnel matchups were the primary criticisms of his performance with the Penguins.

Rutherford, who will attend the general managers' meetings Wednesday in New York, said he expects to begin interviewing coaching candidates June 16 and hopes to have a coach in place by July 1.

Asked about the possibility that his list of prospects might overlap with that of Ron Francis, his protégé and recent replacement as general manager in Carolina who also is hunting for a coach, Rutherford laughed and said, "I think there's probably a chance of that."

Although Rutherford did not divulge the identities of people he plans to consider, here are some names that might circulate in connection with the job, listed in alphabetical order:

• Jeff Daniels --While he is sure to get a lot of mention because he coaches Carolina's American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte and is a longtime Hurricanes employee, Daniels -- who played for the Penguins in the 1990s -- is far from a lock to be a contender here. Earnest and hard-working as he is, there's no consensus Daniels is ready to step into the NHL.

• Willie Desjardins -- He is a bit busy, having guided Dallas' top affiliate into the AHL's Calder Cup final, but Desjardins is regarded as a good teacher who gets the most out of his players. At 57, he's hardly a young guy, but owns a solid resume that includes two years as associate coach with the Stars.

• John Hynes -- In four years as coach of the Penguins' top minor league team in Wilkes-Barre, he has compiled a 186-102-20 record, led the Baby Penguins to at least Round 2 of the Calder Cup playoffs every season and, most important, consistently developed players to fill holes in the parent club's lineup. Wilkes-Barre has become a breeding ground for NHL coaches, and many people there insist Hynes is the most impressive. His players are among his most fierce proponents.

• Todd Nelson -- A Penguins draft choice and alum -- he played one game in the 1990-91 season -- but has accomplished more behind the bench than he did on the ice. Nelson's four seasons running Edmonton's top team in Oklahoma City have yielded a 161-105-42 regular-season record and two trips to the AHL's Western Conference final.

• John Stevens -- Currently an assistant to Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles, he put up a 120-109-34 record as head coach in Philadelphia. He has been credited with developing the Kings' young defensemen, most notably Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov and one-time Penguins prospect Jake Muzzin. Stevens coached the Flyers when the Penguins knocked them out of the playoffs in 2008 and 2009.

• Rick Tocchet -- His 53-69-26 record in a little less than two full seasons in Tampa was nothing special, but neither were the players with whom he was working. Tocchet did help then-Lightning tough guy Steve Downie develop and diversify his skills, and there's little doubt he would demand that his team be tough and highly competitive. Earned praise for his work as an assistant, as well.

• Ulf Samuelsson -- The conventional wisdom in hockey circles is that Samuelsson, a fixture on the Penguins defense during their Stanley Cup runs in 1991 and 1992, likely is headed for Carolina, where longtime friend Francis is now calling the shots. Samuelsson was best known for his nasty hits, but he has a thorough knowledge of the game and has been a highly successful assistant coach with the New York Rangers.

One guy who could have been an intriguing possibility to replace Bylsma, Jeff Blashill, was taken off the market recently when he signed a three-year contract extension with Detroit.

Blashill coaches the Red Wings' minor league team in Grand Rapids, Mich., and holding onto him gives Detroit some quality insurance in case current coach Mike Babcock decides to look elsewhere for work when his contract expires in 2015.

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


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