Nine months ago, Michel Therrien guided the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final.
Now he's out of a job.
Therrien was fired by general manager Ray Shero on Sunday and replaced with former King Dan Bylsma
on an interim basis. Pittsburgh was coming off a 6-2 loss at Toronto on Saturday night and currently reside in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Assistant coach Andre Savard was reassigned within the organization, while Tom Fitzgerald was moved behind the bench. Fitzgerald had been the club's Director of Player Development.
Bylsma, 38, was the head coach of Pittsburgh's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Baby Pens won their eighth straight on Sunday in a 5-2 victory against Worcester. They are 35-16-3, one point behind the first-place Hershey Bears in the East Division. Bylsma will make his debut with Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Bylsma played nine NHL seasons as a right wing with Los Angeles and Anaheim from 1995-2004. He played 429 NHL regular season games, 220 of which were with the Kings, scoring 9-21=30, and also played in five playoff games with the Kings and the 2003 Stanley Cup Final with Anaheim. He retired as a player following the 2003-04 campaign.
Bylsma is anxious to bring some energy to the Penguins, who are 27-25-5 and a game under .500 on the road (12-13-3).
"I'm a passionate person and energetic person," Bylsma said. "I believe you need commitment, passion and a high energy level. That's how I approach life. We have a great challenge that we should enjoy. We should bring all that energy to the rink (Monday)."
Currently five points out of a playoff spot, Shero believed the time to make a change had arrived as there is still time to salvage the season. The Penguins are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games.
"That's our goal," Shero said of reaching the playoffs. "It's been an uphill battle. This is a resilient group. I'm looking for Dan to come in with the coaches here to rally the troops. We're looking to make some progress here and make a push."
The native of Grand Haven, Mich., began his coaching career as an assistant with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL in 2004-05. He made his NHL coaching debut as an assistant with the New York Islanders in 2005-06.
"To have an opportunity to coach a team with this much talent and this much possibility is a great chance for me," Bylsma said. "I look at the players and the roster and I look at a group that can win games right now. We need to do that starting (Monday) on the Island. Players have to believe that we can do this. That's the approach that we'll take."
Bylsma joined the Penguins' organization as an assistant to Todd Richards in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2006-07. In two seasons, the Richards-Bylsma coaching tandem led W-B/S to a 98-49-5-8 record. The Baby Penguins won the AHL East Division and Eastern Conference championships in 2007-08 and advanced to the Calder Cup Final. Bylsma was elevated to head coach when Richards joined Todd McLellan's staff in San Jose last summer.
"I've seen his work in Wilkes-Barre and we've been fortunate to have great coaches come up from there," Shero said. "Dan is a very bright guy. He is very good with the players, demanding, firm and a guy that's fair. I'm excited for him and the opportunity. I'm thankful for him to do this on an interim basis and let's see where this takes us."
The new coach believes work ethic will take the club a long way. Despite boasting the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have allowed four more goals (175) than they've scored (171).
"Teams should be forced to deal with our speed and skill and we need to be an aggressive group," Bylsma said. "We're going to try to get the guys on their toes and going, bringing passion and work ethic to game. If we focus on playing back to our strength and get away from the situation it’s been for a while here, you'll see a team that can compete and be a contending team."
Bylsma admitted he was taken by surprise when he received a call from Shero on Sunday -- a phone call that drastically changed his life.
"I got a call from Ray and he wanted to talk on my office phone," Bylsma said. "That five minutes was a whirlwind. I want to be a coach. I've had some good mentors. I anticipated being a head coach in the National Hockey League. I'm looking forward to letting the guys get out the door and playing a passionate game and seeing what they can do."
As for Bylsma's replacement in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins will announce further plans for their AHL staff on Tuesday.
"We believe we need a change in direction and, with 25 games remaining in the regular season, our goal remains to finish strong and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs," Shero said. "Dan Bylsma is one of the bright young coaches in the game and has done an exceptional job as the head coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.
"We also would like to thank Michel Therrien for his significant contributions to the Penguins organization."
Material from team media was used in this report.
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer