Dan Bylsma has been behind the bench in Pittsburgh for only about 25 months but his resume in that short period of time speaks for itself. Since Bylsma took over for Michel Therrien on Feb. 15, 2009, Pittsburgh has been a perennial Eastern Conference powerhouse and Stanley Cup contender, not to mention a Stanley Cup Champion.
Bylsma turned the 2008-2009 season around in a big way for the Penguins, who were muddling in tenth place at the time he was named the bench boss. He led them on a memorable run that won’t soon be forgotten by Pens fans that included an 18-3-4 record to close out the regular season and playoff run that delivered Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Pittsburgh. He has amassed a 104-52-19 regular season record with the Penguins in his short time to go along with a 5-1 playoff series record.
With all that being said, today was a good day for the Pittsburgh Penguins organization when they extended Bylsma for another 3 years that will keep him behind the Pens bench through the 2013-14 season. While the previous year and half has been an impressive for Bylsma, this year might be his best work yet. The Penguins have been decimated by injuries this year, especially to their top players. Sidney Crosby, the league’s best player, hasn’t played since January 5th with a concussion and still has no timetable for his return. The 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin, hasn’t suited up since February 4th due to a torn ACL and MCL. To make matters worse, Brooks Orpik has been out since the end of February with a broken finger. Despite all the injuries and lineup changes, the Penguins find themselves just two points from being the top team in the East. This version of the Pens plays harder and grinds out games more so than any Pittsburgh team in recent memory. Last Saturday’s game in Boston was a prime example of the heart and resilience that Bylsma has instilled in his team as they overcame a game-tying goal with under a minute left to go on and win in overtime. A goal like that would have deflated a lot of teams throughout the league but Bylsma’s bunch seem to find ways to pick up extra points when it seems like they won’t.
We got a small glimpse as to what Coach Bylsma is all about during HBO’s fantastic 24/7 series leading up to the 2011 Winter Classic. It was clear how well prepared and professional he is in leading his team. The players respond to him and play hard for him. Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau appeared at times to be a mess and disorganized when leading his team, which is quite the contrary to Bylsma. Penguins fans should be very happy that they have Dan Bylsma leading their team for the foreseeable future. He has earned his extension and you can’t argue with that.
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Written by Billy Jones