I know many will say “Finally? Therrien just took the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals last season!” However, I would argue that the talented team got Therrien to the finals and not the other way around. Sometimes, a team is just too talented to allow management to see that their coaching choice wasn’t the best. I’ve wanted Therrien fired for a long time (ask anyone who knows me well – they’ll all say I was the first to mention the idea to them. Therrien often said his team wasn’t prepared when the Pens didn’t show up for a game. As I’ve mentioned many times, that seems to be the number one job of a head coach – make sure your team shows up for each and every game. With a team like the Penguins (they have the #1 & 2 scorers in the NHL), this should not be difficult. Barry Melrose didn’t last long in Tampa Bay, but I’m guessing even he could motivate these guys.
I’ve always thought the way Therrien changes lines during each game was an issue. Though Colby Armstrong pointed out that the Penguins knew Therrien changed lines more often than any other coach out there before they promoted him to the Penguins head coach (from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, their AHL affiliate), I’m not sure they fully examined the down side of this approach at the NHL level. Perhaps it works better with young players, which would explain why it was initially effective for the Penguins.
I don’t see how a team with the two top scorers in the NHL (or two of the top three, since Ovechkin and Crosby have gone back and forth this season) can excuse having a power play that’s 6th worst in the NHL. While I understand that the Pittsburgh power play took a huge hit without Gonchar and Whitney earlier in the season, a team with so many talented players should be able to move past that obstacle. I also understand how important Colby Armstrong and Ryan Malone were to the Penguins. However, as in the days of Mario Lemieux & Jaromir Jagr, the Penguins should be able to move on and keep winning with qualified substitutions as other players move to other teams making more money than they may currently be worth.
Dan Bylsma may have better luck with the NHL Penguins than his predecessor. I’m sure all Penguins are hoping he will. If nothing else, the Pens should have the initial winning streak most teams experience when they get a new coach. The good news for all Penguins fans is that (unlike many teams in the past) the Penguins have made the move to fire Therrien in plenty of time to turn the down turn of their season around and make the playoffs. Shero saw the Penguins fall out of the playoff standings and took action. The Penguins are currently ranked 10th in the east, 5 points behind 7th and 8th.
With Therrien gone from the Penguins, the talk will certainly turn to who’s next to lose his job as head coach in the NHL. Will it be Tom Renney of the New York Rangers? Randy Carlyle of the Anaheim Ducks? Someone else? Time will tell. A few people I talked to tonight at the Ducks game think Randy Carlyle should be worried and I’m sure he’s thought about the possibility that he might lose his job, but I think there might be enough excuses in Anaheim to save him long enough for Tom Renney to be fired first. New York is also a much tougher market than Anaheim. The Ducks just don’t have the fan base the Rangers do and the intensity of the media coverage may be another factor in how long each coach can last. Of course, I did not think the Penguins (who gave Therrien a 3-year contract extension after they made the Stanley Cup Finals last year) would be the first to fire their coach, so perhaps the Ducks will surprise me and move more quickly than the Rangers. Either way, I think both coaches are probably thinking about what they plan to do after their current team fires them.