PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma
, last season's winner of the Jack Adams
Award -- presented annually to the NHL's coach of the year -- is more than a distant admirer of Detroit Red Wings
coach Mike Babcock.
The Pittsburgh Penguins
coach, a former NHL forward, played for Babcock when the Anaheim Ducks
lost to the New Jersey Devils
in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final.
Bylsma was raised in Grand Rapids, Mich., and he has watched the Red Wings since he was a youngster. Not surprisingly, Bylsma tries to incorporate a great deal of what the Red Wings do well -- see Puck Management 101 -- into the Penguins' system.
Call it the Red Wings influence.
"They're a team, whether because I grew up in Michigan and being a Red Wings fan, or because they're an elite team, a better team -- they certainly have been playing that way -- we've watched a lot," Bylsma said. "I try to learn something from everybody and I learned a lot from Mike Babcock as a coach."
Bylsma added, "(I'm) still watching their team, watching what they do to see if there's not something there. You can hear Mike's voice through a lot of that."
And see a lot of that in the Penguins, who beat the Red Wings in a memorable seven-game Stanley Cup Final in 2009, only a few months after Bylsma was hired at midseason to replace Michel Therrien
The Penguins accumulated 106 points last season despite being without stars Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin
and Jordan Staal
for about a half a season each due to injuries. This season, Crosby has played in only eight games, yet the Penguins went into their game against Detroit on Tuesday night with a 17-9-4 record and 38 points.
Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall
credits that to Bylsma's organizational and improvisational skills and his ability to get the maximum effort and production from all players in the lineup.
As Kronwall said, the Penguins don't "live or die with one guy. It's pretty remarkable."