We didn't see this one coming two months ago when we made our over-under predictions for NHL coaches getting thrown under the bus this season, but maybe we should have. More than any other league, the NHL treats its head coaches like Ronnie treats Sammi on Jersey Shore. Once a coach has great success, it only means he'll be taken for granted until he's discarded, then recycled. He and the league will break up and get back together like 16 times. The NHL is a fickle, fickle mistress.
And so the speculation over job security begins this week for Penguins' coach Dan Bylsma. I was going to wait and see how things go tonight against Tampa before raising the issue, but there's already too much talk this morning about Bylsma taking the fall for his underachieving team. We wouldn't be having this discussion if Marc Andre Fleury were even mediocre this season. And we probably wouldn't be having it if Jordan Staal was in the lineup for the past month. It seems silly, but it's the way hockey works. It's not like football, where when you fire a coach you need to worry about changing the entire identity and infrastructure of a team. In hockey, to some degree, you tap the boys on the shoulder and let 'em play. Modern coaches break down a lot of video, and tactics do matter, but not so much that you can't change horses in midstream. That's why jumpy GM's don't hesitate to do it as soon as things start to go south. I think Ray Shero will stay calm, and I hope he does.
There is no indication that Bylsma has lost the locker room. To say that his system has worked for the Penguins over the last 123 games is an understatement. He has a 77-39-12 record in the regular season. He has a Stanley Cup and 5 playoff series wins in two post-seasons. Mike Rupp once said he would skate through a wall for Bylsma. This coach has done a fantastic job. I'd like not to hear that he's in danger of losing his job for the rest of this regular season. But I'm afraid that if the Pens lose to Tampa tonight, we'll hear plenty. Ask Michel Therrien how much time his success - and his honesty - bought him.