June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero announces the Penguins first round draft choice in the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins Fire Ray Shero, But Dan Bylsma Stays... For Now

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You’re not misreading the title, folks.

Ray Shero was fired as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday morning, while Dan Bylsma, who was also previously reported as having been fired, keeps his job for now.

Shero took over as Pittsburgh’s general manager nearly eight years ago, replacing Craig Patrick on May 25, 2006. Pittsburgh made the playoffs in each of Shero’s eight seasons at the helm, including back-to-back Stanley Cup final appearances against the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009, winning the Cup in 2009.

However, the Penguins haven’t made it back to the final despite two of the game’s best players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, both former Hart Trophy winners.

More recently, critics pointed to Shero’s trading (Deadline acquisitions Brendan Morrow and Jarome Iginla didn’t pan out as thought) and drafting history (After Jordan Staal was his first pick, only Robert Bortuzzo, Beau Bennett, and Olli Maatta are regulars in the Pittsburgh lineup, trading Staal and Jake Muzzin in the process) as signs change was needed, not to mention the underperformance of the on-ice product since winning the Cup.

Assistant general manager Jason Botterill will serve as the interim general manager until a permanent replacement is named, though Pittsburgh president and CEO David Morehouse indicated Botterill, along with the Penguins scouting staff, will oversee draft preparations.

Until the permanent general manager is named, Bylsma is in limbo, but he’s still employed, easily the most surprising takeaway from today’s announcement.

It has to be a tough situation for Bylsma right now. He was signed to a contract extension after last season’s exit in the Eastern Conference finals, and now he’s had rumours swirling around him ever since the Penguins were taken out by the New York Rangers earlier this week.

As he’s currently under contract, other teams are unable to contact Bylsma about an opening until such a time where a change is made. Hockey is a tough business, and he’s a sitting duck right now. By the time the Penguins name their new general manager, all other coaching vacancies may well be filled, potentially leaving Bylsma in the cold.

Bylsma has shown himself to be a solid coach, and I firmly believe his Jack Adams Award wasn’t just a result of the parts he had because Michel Therrien couldn’t get over that last hump with nearly the same personnel. He’ll find work relatively quickly if he does get fired, which seems like it may be inevitable. However, he may find himself on the sidelines for a little while if the coaching carousel gets filled before he becomes available.

The Penguins dropped the ball on how they handled this one. It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in professional sports that a general manager likes to pick his own head coach when he assumes a new position, and it’s something Bylsma is well aware of, too, having played in the NHL for over a decade.

While I understand Pittsburgh wanting to employ a “systematic” approach in evaluating each aspect of hockey operations, the way the organization has handled this situation could sour the relationship between coach and management, perhaps irrevocably and to the detriment of all involved.

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Tags: Dan Bylsma Pittsburgh Penguins Ray Shero

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