Within minutes of hiring Jim Rutherford as their new GM, the Pittsburgh Penguins did what many expected was inevitable: they fired head coach Dan Bylsma. The writing was on the wall for Bylsma the moment Ray Shero was fired in mid-May, but Pens ownership wanted to give Shero’s replacement the respect of deciding Bylsma’s fate for himself.
That happened very quickly and now the question becomes where Bylsma lands. Here’s one guesstimated ranking of the most likely landing spot for the Stanley Cup-winner and 2010-11 Jack Adams Award honoree:
1. Vancouver. This choice comes with the following caveat: if Bylsma wants to get back behind the bench by the time training camp begins, his best option for contending for a Cup will be in Vancouver. Don’t get me wrong – I still maintain the best option for the Canucks is to strip down their roster and embark on a full rebuild, but all indications are that organization will retain most of their veterans and attempt to regain the competitive form they displayed prior to their nuclear bomb of a 2013-14 campaign.
Bylsma’s cool, measured approach is the perfect antidote to the (John) Tortorella-itis that plagued the roster last year. He’s not a pushover, but his calm demeanor and ability to keep a team competitive despite a slew of health woes – the Pens finished second in the Eastern Conference despite leading the NHL in man-games lost to injury – make him the best option available to new Canucks GM Jim Benning.
2. Home. By which, I mean Bylsma’s home. He’s got two years remaining on his contract and could decide the best route for him is to wait until the ideal situation presents itself. Maybe that comes in Toronto (if Randy Carlyle is fired); perhaps it comes in Detroit (if Mike Babcock leaves when his contract expires at the end of 2014-15); or maybe it comes in San Jose (should the Sharks suffer another early playoff exit next spring) or somewhere less expected.
Regardless of the particulars, Bylsma doesn’t need to rush into any job. Taking a breather might be the ideal way for him to recharge his batteries and step in again when he’s ready.
3. Florida. The Panthers’ new ownership has promised to bring in more talent and contend sooner than later. Hiring Bylsma would send a signal throughout the league they mean business, but even with him on board, Florida will still be in tough to make the playoffs this coming year. That said, his winning pedigree is precisely what GM Dale Tallon wants to rub off on his collection of talented youngsters.