Bob Smizik: Decision to fire Shero, keep Bylsma makes total sense
May 17, 2014 10:20 AM
From 2009: Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero looks on as Pens head coach Dan Bylsma answers questions during the Stanley Cup Finals media day.
What are we to make of the Penguins curious decision to fire general manager Ray Shero -- who was rated at about 60-40 to be canned -- but to spare coach Dan Bylsma, whose departure was pegged at about 99-1?
For one, take the team at its word. Penguins CEO David Morehouse, who made the announcement, said the team wanted to take handle the process ''systematically,’’ which, understandably, meant starting at the top with Shero. His successor will decide the fate of Bylsma.
To some that makes no sense. From here, it makes perfect sense. The general manager is the boss. He should have the right to hire the people who will work under him. And maybe -- just maybe -- he wants to hire Bylsma.
That might sound crazy to some, but Bylsma is a respected coach. He has won a Stanley Cup. He has taken his team to the playoffs six straight seasons. There will not likely be another coach with such a resume available. As has been stated by many, including Mario Lemieux, when he becomes available Bylsma won’t be long without a job.
Clearly, though, Bylsma comes with some baggage. But why shouldn’t the next GM be allowed to decide if he is willing to take on that baggage in order to hire the best available coach?
It has been published in many places that Bylsma had lost the locker room; that he longer had the full respect of all the players. That’s a serious charge and, if true, it would make Bylsma’s return, no matter how highly he is regarded by the new GM, out of the question.
But if it is true, surely Lemieux, with his close relationship with Sidney Crosby, would be well aware of it. And if he were well aware of it, why would he be stringing the matter out for no good reason?
It’s been suggested the Penguins wish to block Bylsma from taking another job, particularly the opening in Washington. That might be dirty pool to some, but it might be just doing business to others.
Meanwhile, the search for Shero’s successor is underway and there’s no denying this is a coveted job that will attract the best of available candidates.
Despite their lack of postseason success the past five years, the Penguins will enter the 2014-15 season, unless the roster undergoes dramatic change, as a team with a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Normally, when GM jobs open, the new guy is expected to undertake a massive rebuilding and/or overhauling of the roster. That won’t be the case with the Penguins.
The new general manager also will be working for an ownership group that give him full support in terms of finances and without the meddling that might come with other teams.
It’s a great job.
The biggest challenge to the new GM is to find a coach who can work with him and handle the star power of the Penguins. That’s not such an easy job.
The weeks ahead for the Penguins should be most interesting and even entertaining.
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